In Jho Low, magazine sees link between 1MDB and Mid East funds

Low (centre) pedals a trishaw carrying US rapper Swizz Beatz while Busta Rhymes rides in another trishaw driven by 1 Malaysia Welfare club chairman Geh Choh Hun (far right) in George Town on April 19, 2013.
Low (centre) pedals a trishaw carrying US rapper Swizz Beatz while Busta Rhymes rides in another trishaw driven by 1 Malaysia Welfare club chairman Geh Choh Hun (far right) in George Town on April 19, 2013.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 — What a tangled web he weaves.

It is an intricate network of firms, directorships and partnerships with flamboyant tycoon Jho Low at its centre, but Focus Malaysia believes it has unravelled it to show the connection between local investment fund 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and its Middle East backers.

In a front-page story on the enigmatic Penang-born businessman, the business weekly sought to chart the link between 1MDB and Jynwel Capital Ltd, the flagship of the mogul believed to be behind Korean pop sensation Psy’s appearance at the Barisan Nasional (BN) Chinese New Year open house in Penang earlier this year.

Low’s part begins with the role he played in setting up the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which was subsequently rebranded by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as 1MDB in September 2009, to expand its operations to the federal level.

“I was involved in the setting up of TIA from January 2009 to mid-May 2009. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong was kind enough to ask me to assist, given my relationship with the Middle East and the insight I had on how they had set up their sovereign wealth funds,” Low was quoted as saying by Focus, referring to Terengganu Ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.

Although Low did not expressly say, it is believed he was referring to his connection with Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Corp, which has since invested in several 1MDB projects.

Mubadala is the investment arm of Abu Dhabi, fully-owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, with total assets valued at US$55 billion (RM181 billion), as of last year.

It has invested US$4 billion in the development of an aluminium plant that is part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) project.

Its subsidiary, Mubadala Oil and Gas, has also signed a development and production sharing agreement with Malaysian government-linked oil and gas giant Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) to operate an offshore block in Sarawak.

Low is linked with Mubadala through its subsidiary hospitality unit Viceroy Group of Hotels, of which he is a director.

Jynwel and Mubadala were also involved in Sony’s US$2.2 billion takeover of international record label EMI Music Publishing in 2011.

Low now serves as EMI’s non-executive chairman for Asia and a member of its advisory board.

The entrepreneur was also said to have influenced the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company to invest in Malaysia.

Despite his role in setting up TIA, 1MDB and Low have both denied his involvement in the investment arm.

“The role of Jho Low as far as 1MDB is concerned is zero,” said 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Halmi, denying that Low has received compensation for his previous role in the firm.

“I’ve heard talk that he is advising the government on Middle Eastern investors but it’s not true. What he does is help promote Malaysia to investors.”

The son of MWE Holdings Bhd’s Datuk Larry Low previously caught the attention of the public with his lavish partying lifestyle, which included public outings with socialite Paris Hilton and R&B superstar Usher.

Aside from arranging for Psy to perform at the BN open house, Low had also brought in other stars such as US rappers Ludacris, Swizz Beatz, and Busta Rhymes as well as Hong Kong performers Leon Lai, George Lam and Alan Tham to a concert in George Town to promote the ruling coalition’s campaign.

Low is also believed to have been part of the 1 Malaysia Welfare Club that had funded a series of free dinners and events to help BN’s ultimately unsuccessful effort to regain Penang from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat in the May 5 general election.

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