KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 ― Flamboyant tycoon Low Taek Jho has suggested his high-profile lifestyle is to blame for attacks against him over 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
But he said in an interview with financial news magazine Euromoney that he must be the “dumbest person ever” if he profited off the Malaysian government and only to squander it all on glitzy parties.
“And because there are all these pictures of me and Paris Hilton drinking and all that, then you play to the Bumiputera card: ‘Oh, the Chinaman stole all the money and blew it all on alcohol’.
“And then I’m just like, I must be the dumbest person ever, if I really made money off the government and then to blow it like there is no tomorrow, it’s like about the dumbest thing you can do,” he told Euromoney in the interview published in its April edition, referring to celebrity socialite Paris Hilton.
The interview with Low was conducted at his Hong Kong office in March.
“I graduated from Wharton. I’m not that stupid. I just didn’t understand politics at that time.”
“My mistake?” he asked rhetorically during the interview. “Young kid, made a lot of money, never thought about the timelines of these events... and then partying, blah blah blah blah… and that’s the part that gets all the attention.”
“I made money and I spent it, and it’s: ‘Oh, he must’ve made it from TIA/1MDB.’ I mean that’s basically the accusation.”
Low added he did not fear arrest on return to Malaysia, saying his biggest concern was that documents could be fabricated although he acknowledged he had no proof of such acts.
Low also denied that he was the rainmaker for 1MDB.
“Not really, I think they see me as… I think, for me, I have a very good relationship with Abu Dhabi, so any deal they do anywhere in the world, they would first come to me and ask if I want to co-invest. In the Malaysian case, we always say no because it’s politically sensitive.”
According to Euromoney, much of the speculation around Low’s involvement in 1MDB relates to his role in its predecessor, the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), the state fund he devised with the state’s royals that was later taken over by the federal government.
The young tycoon, popularly known as Jho Low, told US business channel CNBC last month that he is being made a political scapegoat in the 1MDB controversy due to his long-time friendship with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz.
Najib last month ordered the Auditor-General and Public Accounts Committee to investigate 1MDB, amid growing demands for explanations over the firm's allegedly opaque investment decisions and for amassing a reported RM42 billion debt pile.
The move did not convince former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is critical of 1MDB and Low’s alleged involvement with the firm.