Why are Malaysian government leaders, including a Minister, a Deputy Minister and a MP rushing to defend Jho Low and his billion-ringgit superyacht seized in Indonesia last Wednesday when the international noose around the neck of 1MDB scandal getting tighter?
Six days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that a top Republican fundraiser close to President Donald Trump had asked as much as US$75 million (RM295 million) from Jho Low to get the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) to stop investigating the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
The US business daily broke the news by reviewing a cache of emails from Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and a long-time Republican donor, and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, a lawyer.
“The messages include draft agreements between Ms Rosenzweig’s California law firm and representatives of Mr Low about the possible terms of their business engagement. In one draft, there is a proposal that includes a US$75 million fee if the Justice Department quickly drops its investigation,” the daily said in an online report.
Yesterday, we learnt that Red Granite Pictures, the company that which produced “The Wolf of Wall Street”, had agreed to pay US$60mil (RM234mil) to the US government in order to resolve allegations that it profited from the 1MDB scandal.
US prosecutors had filed a civil asset forfeiture action against the company in July 2016, as part of a much broader effort to recoup more than US$1bil (RM3.9bil) allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.. The Justice Department has accused financier Jho Low of masterminding a scheme to steal US$4.5bil (RM17.55bil) from the fund.
Riza Aziz, the CEO of Red Granite, is the stepson of Malaysia Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is a close friend of Jho Low.
US prosecutors alleged that he used more than US$100mil (RM390mil) taken from 1MDB to finance "The Wolf of Wall Street", "Dumb and Dumber To" and "Daddy's Home".
The agreement provides that Red Granite will make the forfeiture payment in three instalments: US$30mil (RM117mil) within 30 days, US$20mil (RM78mil) within the next 180 days, and the final US$10mil (RM39mil) within 180 days after that.
Riza has claimed that he never knowingly used stolen funds for his film projects. He was also accused of using stolen funds to buy luxury real estate, including a US$35mil (RM136mil) condominium in New York, a US$41.8mil (RM163mil) London townhouse, and a $US17.5mil (RM68mil) mansion in Beverly Hills. The government is also seeking to seize those properties.
As part of the case, the government has also taken possession of three artworks that Low and an associate gifted to Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of "The Wolf of Wall Street". DiCaprio also agreed to turn over an Oscar that had been awarded to Marlon Brando, and which Red Granite had given him as a gift. DiCaprio was not accused of wrongdoing.
However, a strange thing is happening in Malaysia.
Why are Malaysian government leaders, including a Minister, a Deputy Minister and a Member of Parliament, rushing to defend Jho Low and his billion-ringgit luxury superyacht seized in Indonesia last Wednesday when the international noose around the neck of the1MDB scandal is getting tighter?
The Minister for Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak has defended his remarks that there was no evidence the luxury yacht seized by Indonesian authorities in Bali is owned by Jho Low; the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Razali Ismail has challenged the claim that the Equanimity superyacht was bought using 1MDB funds; while a Barisan Nasional MP said in Parliament today that the claim that the yacht Equanimity belongs to a Malaysian is “fake news”.
Salleh’s defence of his earlier assertion that there is no evidence the luxury yacht belonged to Jho Low drove former UMNO Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz to post on her FaceBook the warning: “Never to forget the will of the Almighty”; “Never Forget. We cannot buy our way into the Almight’s good books” and the very tell-tale finale: “In the Almighty’s Books, Cash is not King”’; while former UMNO Minister Tan Sri Rais Yatim, who earlier tweeted to remind Salleh not to be so hasty in defending Jho Low when he should be defending “justice”, lectured Salleh to spare the sarcasm as Jho Low is hunted by eight countries because of the 1MDB scandal.
How can Salleh claim that Jho Low’s ownership of Equanimity is only an allegation by the US DoJ in its civil forfeiture suit against 1MDB in July 2016, and that he was only stating the facts of the case?
Let me refer Salleh to an internet posting in July 2014 which stated that the owner of the the Equanmity luxury superyacht was “Jynwel Capital CEO Jho Low”. (http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=2081275)
More pertinent to Malaysians is why Malaysian government leaders, including a Minister, a Deputy Minister and a MP, are rushing to defend Jho Low and his superyacht, when the international noose around the neck of 1MDB scandal is getting tighter?