Jho Low not a genius, he just never gives up, says WSJ journo

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PETALING JAYA: The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) journalist who co-authored a book on Low Taek Jho’s alleged role in the 1MDB affair says the fugitive businessman, better known as Jho Low, is not a financial genius, just an opportunistic person who never gives up.

Tom Wright, who wrote “The Billion Dollar Whale” with fellow journalist Bradley Hope, said the “amazing thing” about Jho Low who is on the run from authorities in Malaysia and several other countries was his ability to “work a room” to his benefit.

“I don’t think he was a financial genius,” Wright said in an interview with radio station BFM today.

Instead, he said, Jho Low’s “genius” was in connecting Middle Eastern investors with former prime minister Najib Razak and bringing funds into the country.

Until today, he added, Jho Low remained active, even to the extent of trying to reach out and “help” Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“He does things like this over and over again. Even after he is exiled from Malaysia in 2015 by (former prime minister) Najib Razak, he goes to China and persuades CEOs of state companies to invest in, you know, the East Coast Rail Link. He never gives up.

“Even now, he’s texting and sending messages to the new Malaysian government. ‘Look, I’ll help you with your meetings, even Mahathir’s meetings in New York, and help you get back your assets. You’ll never get your assets back if you don’t include me’.”

Wright, who is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, also described Jho Low as optimistic, saying he had a “high tolerance for risks” and did not have “the normal run of human emotions”.

He also noted the accusations of money laundering levelled against Jho Low even after the businessman was named in the civil suits by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

“He’s someone who has this internal life that’s hard to penetrate. I don’t know what motivates him,” he said, adding that he would like to ask Jho Low about it.

Wright began writing on the 1MDB issue after WSJ broke the news about the scandal at the state-owned investment fund.

In the interview today, he also questioned the extent of Najib’s involvement in the issue, saying the former prime minister may have taken “a lot of money”, but “Jho Low is the only person with a 360 degree view”.

1MDB is under investigation in at least six countries including the US where it has become the biggest case pursued by the DoJ under its anti-kleptocracy programme.

The DoJ alleged in lawsuits that more than US$4.5 billion from 1MDB was laundered through a complex web of transactions and shell companies, US$681 million of which ended up in Najib’s bank account.

Najib claims that the bulk of the funds was given to him by the Saudi royal family to fund his party’s efforts.

Wright said he had tried for three years to get Jho Low to talk, but that the businessman had refused to contribute or defend himself.

He also questioned claims that Jho Low would strike a deal with the DoJ over his role in 1MDB, calling these “very speculative”.

“Jho Low won’t get a deal cut. He is at the centre of a fraud. It’s not going to happen.”