NEW YORK - Low Taek Jho, the businessman allegedly at the centre of a multi-billion dollar theft from state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)had given US$200 million (S$276 million) to celebrity-linked charities in the US, the New York Post has reported.
These donations have, however, not been returned by the charities to the US Justice Department, which in July 2016 filed a civil suit to recover over US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in assets bought by Jho Low, as he is popularly known, allegedly with funds misappropriated from 1MDB. Last month, celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio and Miranda Kerr handed over paintings and diamonds worth millions of dollars that were gifted to them by Mr Low.
According to the New York Post, Mr Low gave "millions of dollars" to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. It said that charities linked to award-winning singer Alicia Keys-Keep A Child Alive, to fight AIDS in Africa and the We Are Here Movement-also received money from him.
"I don't know what the charities' ethical practice should be," Malaysian Member of Parliament Tony Pua told The Post.
"The monies can't be returned to the Malaysian government, because the government comprised people complicit in laundering the money in the first place. The charities should set up a separate trust for the funds serving a cause benefiting Malaysians, or return the money to Malaysia if the current government is deposed," he added.
Other recipients of Mr Low's largesse included Panthera, a wild cat foundation created in 2014 by New York-born mineral mining billionaire Thomas Kaplan, which got US$20 million. Mr Kaplan is one of the biggest investors in gold and silver and has close ties to the British political establishment.
Mr Low also invested US$150 million in Mr Kaplan's company, Electrum Group LLC and joined its board for a time.
While the government is seizing the US$150 million that Mr Low invested in Electrum, which is cooperating, it has not made a claim against the Panthera charity.
After having a "cancer scare", Mr Low also gave US$50 million to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
A news lover, Mr Low reportedly gave US$25 million to the United Nations Foundation, which told The Post it received only US$3 million. He also made donations to National Geographic Pristine Seas Fund.
Mr Low has described his ties to 1MDB as informal consulting work that did not break any laws.