PETALING JAYA, Nov 15 — Two high-powered US law firms acting for fugitive financier Low Taek Jho spent more than US$1.1 million (RM4.6 million) in a global publicity exercise to brighten his tarnished reputation as the alleged mastermind of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial heist scandal, the New York Times reported.
Citing legal filings to the US Department of Justice (DoJ) under its Foreign Agents Registration Act (Fara) — a law that requires consultants lobbying or helping in public relations campaigns in the US to disclose information about their work and payment in a bid to prevent undue foreign interference — NYT reported that the “litigation communications” campaign was carried out by Kobre & Kim and Schillings International over the past seven months.
The services covered round-the-clock crisis public relations response, efforts to shape internet search results, and a website with international reports and legal filings aimed at bolstering the Penang-born’s side of the story, NYT added.
Payments were reportedly made to three public relations firms and a digital search firm.
More than US$818,000 (RM3,431,510) was disbursed to four firms for work done on behalf of the flamboyant Malaysian better known as Jho Low. The bulk of it, US$544,000 (RM2,282,080), went to New York-based public relations firm, PRCG Haggerty owned by James Haggerty.
NYT quoted Haggerty saying in the filing to the DoJ that his firm was also paid “to ensure the client is not prejudged in public in a manner that affects his legal rights in jurisdictions across the globe”.
PRCG Haggerty’s services reportedly included engaging “Australian partners” to provide material to news organisations Down Under and Asia covering the 1MDB scandal.
Other companies paid included London-based PHA Group and in New York, Marathon Strategies, a digital search and analytics firm called Five Blocks which got US$210,000 (RM880,000) to provide Low with “digital reputation management”.
Low has been charged in absentia in the US with laundering billions of dollars stolen from 1MDB, together with former Goldman Sachs bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, another Malaysian currently waiting to be extradited from here to the US.
Low and his father Tan Sri Larry Low also face similar charges in the Malaysian court.
Putrajaya has roped in Interpol’s aid to bring him back here to face prosecution.