A Malaysian financier accused of stealing £3 billion from his country’s government was directly inspired by the overt wealth of his peers at Harrow, according to an economic expert.
Tom Wright, Asian Economics Editor of the Wall Street Journal, appears on The PM, The Playboy and the Wolf of Wall Street on BBC Four documentary tonight, where he opened up about fugitive playboy Jho Low, who is currently been hunted by Interpol.
The financier, who helped to back the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, is accused of plundering the 1MDB fund, set up by the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, and using the money to buy yachts and lavish gifts for celebrities.
Tom Wright argued that glaring opulence of his peers – who were anything from the children of royalty to wealthy Saudi businessmen – was ‘crucial in his psychological development’, and would later urge Low to acquire wealth by any means necessary.
The journalist described his British education as a ‘transformative’ moment in Jho’s life, because it gave him ‘an eye on to a different world of wealth’.
Harrow-educated financier Jho Low, 38, (right) who was accused of stealing £3 billion from the Malaysian government helped finance ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and was seen on occasions in the company of the film’s star Leonardo DiCaprio,44 (left)
Jho Low is pictured while attending Harrow School, a prestigious public school for boys in Harrow, London, founded in 1572
He said: ‘I think the big transformative moment for Jho Low was when his parents decided to send him to Harrow Boarding school in the UK in the late 90s.
‘Because he suddenly went from this very back water Malaysian island to the school where Winston Churchill and others had studied.
‘Jho Low was suddenly studying besides the king of Jordan’s son, the children of royalty and Arab businessmen’s kids, and these people were a lot wealthier than he was.
‘That really gave him an eye on to a different world of wealth and I think was crucial on his psychological development.’
How did the the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal unfold?
1MDB is a state investment fund founded in 2009 by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who chaired the fund’s advisory board until 2016.
The fund, aimed at promoting economic development, was set up allegedly with the help of a Malaysian financier, Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low.
Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, befriended Riza Aziz, the stepson of Najib Razak, during his time at Harrow, which helped him become close to Malaysia’s former ruling family.
Between 2009 and 2013, 1MDB raised billions of dollars in bonds for use in investment projects and joint ventures.
With the aid of several high-level 1MDB officials, their associates and bankers, the U.S. DOJ said $4.5 billion was instead diverted to offshore bank accounts and shell companies, many of which were linked to Low and some of his associates.
The siphoned funds were allegedly used to buy luxury assets and real estate for Low and his associates.
Since July 2016, the DOJ has filed civil lawsuits seeking to seize a total of $1.7 billion in 1MDB-linked assets.
The assets include gifts given by Low to celebrity friends, such as a Picasso painting for Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, which he has since returned to US authorities.
Other assets include a private jet, real estate in London, Los Angeles and New York, and a $107-million stake in EMI Music Publishing.
Low, through spokesmen, has consistently denied wrongdoing. His current whereabouts are unknown.
According to the DOJ, other beneficiaries of 1MDB funds included Riza Aziz, Najib’s stepson and a friend of Low’s.
Some of the funds were used to finance the Hollywood films “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Dumb and Dumber To”, both produced by Red Granite, a film company co-founded by Riza.
Red Granite has agreed to pay the U.S. $60 million as part of a settlement deal.
A person described in the U.S. lawsuits as “Malaysian Official 1” was said to have received more than $1 billion in 1MDB funds, some of which was used to buy jewelry for the person’s wife.
U.S. and Malaysian sources have said “Malaysian Official 1” refers to Najib.
Riza and Najib have consistently denied wrongdoing. The Malaysian government said the money in Najib’s account was a donation from a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family.
The playboy, whose full name is Low Taek Jho, is accused of embezzling at least $4.5 billion from a giant Malaysian government investment fund known formally as 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB.
The sum involved would make it one of the biggest financial heists in history
In Singapore, he has been charged with money laundering and receiving stolen property.
In Malaysia he has also been accused of laundering $450 million in stolen funds through bank accounts in Singapore, the Cayman Islands, the U.S. and Switzerland.
Low, 38, claims he is innocent and is currently presumed to be in China, and has so far eluded Interpol’s efforts to reach him.
Mr. Jho Low is pictured meeting supermodel Gigi Hadid while attending the Angel Ball hosted by Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street in 2014
Low helped finance ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ in which DiCaprio portrays crooked stockbroker Jordan Belfort who makes a huge fortune by defrauding wealthy investors out of millions and indulges in a hedonistic brew of sex, drugs and alcohol
The playboy is snapped partying with sisters Paris and Nicky Hilton in 2010. According to entertainment journalist Robin Leach the pair were treated like VIPs at his birthday party
Louise Story, an investigative journalist who has been examining Low’s case since 2013, told that although his family were middle-class, Low was not from an extraordinarily wealthy family and became the ‘hope’ of his family after going off to Harrow.
She said: ‘I found out that the Low family is a wealthy but not extraordinarily rich family . Originally they became much richer through Jhos activities.
‘They had his ups and downs with his business partners. There was a renovation on his home that ended up with a lawsuit over unpaid bills.
‘Larry [his father] had split off with his company and it was a bit of a depressed affluence, and Jho really became the hope for the Low’s family future when he went off to Harrow.’
Low is accused of embezzling at least $4.5 billion from a giant Malaysian government investment fund known formally as 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB
The financier is pictured drinking champagne with rapper Usher. Leach estimated that his lavish birthday event ‘must have cost 100 billion dollars’
Elsewhere in the documentary, Journalist Robin Leach detailed a lavish birthday party of the Low, who has since been dubbed the ‘Asian Great Gatsby’.
Low hired the ‘most gorgeous’ models from across the US to act as waitresses during the ‘spectacle’, and the women served magnums of Cristal to the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kanye West.
Robin, who sadly passed away in August last year, was a guest at the party, explained: ‘The Jho Low birthday party was a spectacle in every sense.
‘They had hired at least 250 of the most gorgeous looking models from all over America to be cocktail waitresses for this party.
‘They were all dressed identically in red, they made a stunning visual impact and all of them were walking around with magnums of Cristal.
Low and Alicia Keys attend Keep A Child Alive’s 10th Annual Black Ball at Hammerstein Ballroom in 2013 in New York City
‘I remember standing at the bar with Britney Spears as she was waiting her turn to go on and sing happy birthday and then Jamie Foxx walks on to be the MC.
This is no ordinary party.It’s like a wedding cake, if you could imagine Mr Money bags was at the top and then there were these tiers that came down and you were either in tier one or tier two or tier three.
‘Paris Hilton was ushered right into the intimate circle there was this huge turnout of celebrities including DiCaprio.
‘The list is endless you could run movie credits with all the people that were there.’
The PM, the Playboy and the Wolf of Wall Street will air on BBC Four Monday at 9pm.