Malaysia’s most notorious financier, human pan de yema Jho Low, is back in the headlines after investigative reporters at the Greek-language Politis newspaper in Cyprus revealed that the fugitive was granted a passport by the island nation four years ago.
Malaysian authorities had previously revealed that they had canceled Low’s passport, and that he was no longer traveling on his other travel papers procured from the tiny Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
According to Politis, Low arrived on Cyprus in September 2015, and two days later was given a passport via an investment scheme that saw him deposit a minimum of 5 million euros into an island bank account and purchase property via a proxy near the town of Ayia Napa, the spiritual holiday home of UK garage music and its attendant pheromone-soaked, drunken-teenager-approved Pure Silk parties.
At the time, Low had yet to have an Interpol red notice issued in his name. However, many red flags were raised during an audit by a due diligence team from Thomson Reuters following his passport application, which was reportedly filed by procurement firm Henley & Partners, according to Politis.
Among them? High-risk flags were raised over his alleged involvement in money laundering and fraud, as well as his political connections and “other risk factors.” In spite of this, Low’s citizenship application was approved.
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.
If Henley & Partners is ringing bells, you may be recalling their endless rankings that pit passports against each other to see which country gets the most strings-free travel around the globe. They’re also the guys who can help those capable of paying nose-bleed fees obtain so-called “golden passports.”
Beloved by the rich, powerful, and Malaysia’s most-wanted, who previously used their services to procure his St. Kitts passport, the firm was exposed by a UK Parliamentary inquiry as having connections to disgraced campaigning firm Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL.
An Interim Report alleged that SCL election campaigning assistance was often mobilized behind the scenes at the behest of Henley & Partners, who were keen to keep governments in power who had favorable citizenship-by-investment schemes, and who would give the firm exclusive passport procurement rights. They have denied these allegations.
Henley & Partners also found themselves central figures in more unsavory stories after a Maltese journalist was murdered following years of investigating alleged corruption in the island’s passport-by-investment scheme, in which the firm is intimately involved. Henley has also denied any links to the case.
More recently, Cyprus’s controversial scheme has found itself in hot water again after it was discovered that eight Cambodian officials with ties to the country’s authoritarian regime had similarly exploited the program.
Low, meanwhile, is currently wanted by the Malaysian government for his role the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, the country’s biggest financial scandal ever, in which he is accused of having benefited to the tune of billions.
He recently cut a deal with US authorities, forfeiting nearly a billion dollars of assets in the country.
“A staggering amount of money embezzled from 1MDB at the expense of the people of Malaysia was laundered through the purchase of big-ticket assets in the US and other nations,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna.
“Thanks to this settlement, one of the men allegedly at the center of this massive scheme will lose all access to hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Low still faces criminal charges in the matter.
However, Low’s legal team has clarified that this settlement “does not constitute an admission of guilt, liability or any form of wrongdoing by me or the asset owners.”
In other news, it’s Low’s birthday today! Happy Birthday, Jho! As always, we’re here and ready to throw you a welcome-home party, whenever you’re ready to come back. We can’t promise Paris Hilton, but we can definitely guarantee a look-alike.
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.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of the firm responsible for an audit of Low’s citizenship application to Cyprus. It was conducted by Thomson Reuters. Coconuts KL apologizes for any confusion caused.
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