Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, is gearing up to be served with a litany of 1MDB embezzlement charges alongside her husband, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Unnamed sources, including local 1MDB investigators, family members, and one-time associates of the couple are now saying that it was Rosmah who played the central role in the funneling of billions for personal use via the sovereign wealth fund.
Published yesterday, the WSJ writes: “People who know Ms Rosmah say she helped orchestrate the alleged involvement of a young Malaysian financier who the US Justice Department says helped set up the 1MDB fund and then oversaw its looting.”
That young financier with a penchant for extravagant gifts and spending time on superyachts he claims he doesn’t own? None other than Penang’s Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low.
Low is currently wanted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for his role in allegedly setting up, then funneling funds from, 1MDB. As investigations widen, a picture is beginning to emerge of what appears to be a personal slush fund more than anything else.
Earlier this month Low’s legal team contacted the MACC to broker a meeting from the comforts of Dubai; Malaysia’s prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad denied that any kind of arrangement would ever be agreed upon. The subtext was clear: No deal.
Low’s entry into Najib’s sphere of influence was traced by the WSJ to a meeting with Rosmah more than 10 years ago, when the two shared neighboring residences in London. At the time, it is alleged that he was among one of several businessmen who gifted Rosmah with diamonds, luxury handbags, watches and more, hoping to curry favor with the most powerful woman in Malaysia.
Low’s time at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business (Donald Trump’s alma mater) enabled him to make connections with several prominent Middle East families, friendships he then used for Najib’s benefit, after convincing an Abu Dhabi state fund to invest in a Malaysian project. This was something that Najib later took credit for.
After this deal, Rosmah became what the WSJ calls “Low’s champion,” introducing him to Najib, who in turn gave him great leeway in 1MDB affairs.
Low was always on hand to ingratiate and bolster the ego of Malaysia’s former first lady: In 2010, he took at a two-page advertisement in The New York Times, welcoming Rosmah as she accompanied Najib on his first official US visit as PM.
He also added Hollywood glamor to Rosmah’s party circuit, facilitating rubbing shoulders with the likes of Robert De Niro and Jamie Foxx at parties she attended.
Malaysia’s newly appointed attorney-general, Tommy Thomas, is now reviewing purchases made by Rosmah using Najib’s credit cards. These include extravagant shopping sprees abroad — Chanel in Hawaii, and an Italian jewelry shop.
According to the WSJ, it was Rosmah that was the main force behind all of Najib’s actions on 1MDB, a kind of power that would be admirable if it weren’t absolutely deplorable.
Najib’s concern was always focused on ensuring funds for political purposes, and he shockingly was not fully informed about 1MDB’s management, sources told the paper.
“The wife had more of a picture than the husband,” said one source, going as far as to eavesdrop on a phone conversation between Malaysia’s US ambassador and a lobbying group she had hired in hopes of having the Department of Justice drop their investigations into 1MDB.
As investigations heated up, Najib is reported to have wanted to resign. It was Rosmah who told him to not back down and stay the course.
Neither party has been charged, but things are not looking good: the DoJ has since suspended a lawsuit that initially only wanted to seize assets bought with ill-gotten gains. Now they’re re-framing their investigations with criminal charges in mind.