Hashtag Blessed? Archbishop helped Jho secure Cyprus passport, gov’t to ‘revoke’ ill-gotten papers

Party-mode Jho!
Party-mode Jho!

Welcome back, readers, to today’s installment of “What’s going on with Jho,” the fugitive financier alleged thief and 1MDB scandal mastermind.

News broke today via the Greek-language daily Politis that the man wanted by both Malaysian and United States authorities managed to obtain a passport from Cyprus thanks to a little divine intervention — specifically in the form of a letter from the Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Greek Orthodox Church on the island nation.

Yesterday, we reported that Jho had taken advantage of a controversial investment scheme to buy Cypriot citizenship — just the latest in a string of nationalities inhabited by the flighty (alleged!) fraudster. He was granted his papers as part of a legal “golden passport” scheme in only two days after depositing 5 million euros in an island bank and purchasing property near the holiday resort town of Ayia Napa.

Questions over how the archbishop came to be involved, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. Other questions have been raised as to whether the money entering the country went through the proper channels, and as to how — or whether — Low managed to obtain the necessary Malaysian certificate declaring a clean criminal record. (Low’s name had been mentioned publicly in connection with the 1MDB scandal for at least seven months prior to him obtaining his Cypriot passport, though it’s unclear when exactly he officially became a primary suspect.)

Senior Cypriot government officials have confirmed to Bloomberg News that Low is indeed a national of their country.

Politis‘s investigations indicated that Archbishop Chrysostomos II sent no fewer than two letters to the country’s interior minister in 2015, asking that Low be naturalized as the two had discussed the alleged billion-dollar-whale’s investments on church property.

Henley & Partners — the passport procurement firm of the rich, famous, and occasionally wanted — allegedly helped Jho secure his papers, even after many red flags were raised during an external audit by Thomson Reuters, according to Politis. These red flags included, but were not limited to, Low’s high-risk implications in alleged fraud and money laundering, and his political exposure.

Despite being named in connection with Low in numerous media reports, Henley & Partners denied in a statement having taken him on as a citizenship client in 2015, and maintains it did not have a hand in securing Low’s Cypriot passport.

In light of the scandalous revelations surrounding Low (among others), Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said yesterday that his country will revoke passports that were “mistakenly” granted to wealthy investors whose background checks left something to be desired. He added that there were perhaps 10 to 15 cases that authorities would look into, and that “citizenship will be taken away from anyone who received it in violation of the strict criteria that are required, full stop. And as soon as possible.”

Now if you’re wondering how this will affect our dear, shiny bao-on-the-run Jho, well, who knows. His whereabouts officially remain a mystery, although Malaysian authorities have hinted that they know where he’s hiding — under the protection of a certain party — and have said they’re working to bring him home. Interpol issued a red notice against him in 2018 to no avail.

Last week, a letter from Low’s legal team indicated that the fugitive was offered “asylum” in August by an unnamed country that they said acts in line with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights.

Back in Cyrpus, meanwhile, things are really heating up to, like, cili padi pedas levels after it was revealed that Jho’s cool 5 milli didn’t first go through Cyprus’ Central Bank — as it should have to check for money laundering, which would have required the alleged thief to submit proof of remittances for his cash. (It is alleged that Jho made a large portion of his deposit in cash, something Politis notes is “unacceptable” for investments.)

Now, which financial institution did Jho find was ready and willing to take his no-questions-asked cash? Why, none other than the Bank of Cyprus, best known for its shady connections to Russian oligarchs, and whose vice chairman at the time was Wilbur Ross, the current US Commerce Secretary.

LOL.

So there you have it! That’s the latest news from our country’s most notorious alleged klepto on the lam. But keep an eye on this space, because there’s sure to be more in, ohhhh, we don’t know, a couple hours or so.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include a statement from Henley & Partners denying playing a part in Low’s Cypriot citizenship application.

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