KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — Enigmatic tycoon Jho Low was forced today to deny any involvement in 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) following another round of allegations, insisting he “never received any compensation or patronage directly” from the sovereign wealth fund or any government-linked entities.
The Penang-born businessman’s ties to the state development fund stems largely from his role in its predecessor, Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), and the perception of his involvement lingers on years after the fund was transformed into 1MDB.
In a statement today, Low sought to convey that his involvement, if any, ended with TIA.
“Mr Low has never held any position in 1MDB or in the government of Malaysia. Mr Low was appointed as one of the many advisors invited by the stakeholders of Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) to provide advice from Jan 2009 to mid-May 2009 given his market-based knowledge.
“Mr Low has not been involved in TIA since mid-May 2009,” read the press statement carried by several news portals.
The long-held perception bubbled again to the surface last week when whistleblower website Sarawak Report alleged that Low had tried to use 1MBD to fund the purchase of the Maybourne Hotel Group in London for his Wynton Group in 2011.
Citing mentions of Low in the published judgment from an Irish civil lawsuit, Sarawak Report asserted that the £60 million sum (RM330 million) spent by the young magnate’s group to purchase liabilities of property tycoon Derek Quinlan, then held by Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency, may have been bankrolled by 1MDB.
Low explained today that 1MDB’s link to the deal was only through an invitation by Abu Dhabi-owned Aabar Investments PJS to consider investing in the potential deal.
The purchase did not ultimately materialise.
1MDB was incorporated in 2009, after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the decision to turn the TIA state fund into a federal agency.
But the fund has been dogged by negative publicity over massive fees paid for bond sales, the near one-year delay in publishing its financial accounts, and most recently, changing auditors.
Auditors Deloitte finally signed off on 1MDB’s books earlier this month, after previous accounting firm KPMG said it could not finalise the accounts.
Opposition lawmakers have also cast a wary eye on the rate at which the firm has racked up liabilities, which recently saw its total liabilities grew to RM42 billion last year from RM8.4 billion in 2012.
Little is known of Low, save his semi-regular appearances among Hollywood’s elite.