Photo: Billionaire Jho Low posing for a snap with US artists Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats
Whoa. Property billionaire Jho Low just made a huge splash on the international news cycle, as he’s now the focus of a New York Times exposé on real estate corruption in the United States – an article that’s landed smack dab on the front page of the newspaper’s website:
The article, one of a five-part series on real estate shenanigans in the US, particularly in the very expensive New York City luxury condominium sector, alleges that Low is a key player in a network of wealthy shadow investors pumping in vast amounts of possibly shady money into the US real estate market, where luxury condos can cost upwards of USD30 million (RM107 million).
Journalists Louise Story and Stephanie Saul link Low to a whole slew of notable names in Malaysian politics and high society, starting with the stepson of Prime Minister Najib Razak, Riza Aziz.
Through his connection to Riza, who was last year mired in controversy over his high-profile production credit for the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, Low is said to have cemented partnerships and facilitated investments for the Sultan of Terengganu Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin (who was Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the time), Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor, the brother of Malaysian sugar magnate Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary, as well as the royal families of Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
More alarmingly, the NYT piece alleges that Low has been a decisive voice in the running of the Federal Government’s troubled development investment arm, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, even though he has no formal position in the corporation.
The Penang-born Low’s help to the 1Malaysia Penang Welfare Club to organise a free concert with performances by high-profile US hip-hop artists Ludacris and Busta Rhymes was also cast as a contribution to the Najib administration to gain more votes in the Pakatan-held state.
Low has been quoted as saying that he no longer acts as an investment representative for other parties, and is just investing his family’s fortune in global business interests.
The New York Times trumpeted the publishing of the article with not one, but three tweets, one of which was in Bahasa Malaysia, a rare sight for Malaysian newswatchers:
The newspaper even prepared a summary of the facts presented in the main article in a separate Bahasa Malaysia translation.