KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 ― The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating claims that an American artiste Pras Michel with ties to US President Donald Trump, and Thai businessman Phengphian Laogumnerd are financially supporting wanted billionaire Low Taek Jho, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported today.
Quoting anonymous sources, the US news outlet reported that Phengphian had paid for the Malaysian fugitive’s accommodation in Hong Kong and Macau, legal and advisory fees as well as to maintain the latter’s luxury yacht ― Equanimity ― before it was recently seized by the Malaysian authorities.
“The Thai businessman also handled payments of tens of millions of dollars to Mr Low’s lead law firm and advisers, New York-based Kobre and Kim LLP, and British reputation law firm Schillings International LLP, according to the people familiar with the investigation,” WSJ reported.
A representative for Phengphian was quoted in the report as saying that the latter’s client is a wealthy person but denied any link between the Thai’s riches to the former financier better known as Jho Low.
“The source of his income is nothing to do with — and he has not received any money from — Mr Low,” Phengphian’s representative told WSJ.
“What he chooses to do with his own funds is his business alone. The Department of Justice has never contacted him about anything, neither have they ever asked him about the source of his funds” the person added.
WSJ reported that the American rapper was alleged to have brought in an ally of US President Donald Trump, venture-capital executive Elliott Broidy to “provide strategic advice as part of a broader team” for Low.
The report said Broidy, a Republican fundraiser, was also vice chairman for Trump’s campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
A lawyer representing Michel, however, denied any wrongdoing involving his or her client.
“I do not know what, if anything, the Department of Justice is currently reviewing, but I am confident that Mr Michel has not done anything improper,” the lawyer was quoted as saying in the report.
The WSJ also reported a lawyer representing Broidy saying that the latter had “never agreed to work for, been retained by nor been compensated by any foreign government for any interaction with the United States Government, ever.”
Part of DOJ’s investigation, the report said, include probing Trump’s lawyer Chris Christie, who was a former New Jersey Governor.
“The team of lawyers and consultants working for Mr Low includes Mr. Christie, who briefly headed Mr. Trump’s presidential transition team,” the report said.
The DOJ believes Low siphoned US$4.5 billion (RM18.6 billion) from 1Malaysia Development Berhad and laundered through the global financial system.