‘Billion Dollar Whale’ author claims Jho Low developed taste for riches at prestigious UK school

Jerry Choong
Co-author of ‘Billion Dollar Whale’ Tom Wright said the big transformative movement for Low came when the latter went to Harrow Boarding school in the late 1990s. ― Picture by Ham Abu Bakar

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — Fugitive financier Low Taek Jho's drive to embezzle billions from the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) fund may have been inspired by his time as a student in one of the United Kingdom's most prestigious boarding schools, said Tom Wright.

The Wall Street Journal's Asian economics editor and co-author of Billion Dollar Whale said the big transformative movement for Low came when the latter went to Harrow Boarding school in the late 1990s.

“Jho Low was suddenly studying besides the king of Jordan’s son, the children of royalty and Arab businessmen's kids, and these people were a lot wealthier than he was,” he said in the BBC Four documentary The PM, The Playboy and the Wolf of Wall Street, referring to Low by his moniker.

Wright added the time spent in Harrows gave Low an eye on to a different world of wealth, which he believes was crucial for his psychological development.

Another person in the documentary is investigative journalist Louise Story, who has been keeping track of Low since 2013. She said the financier became the hope of his family after going off to Harrow.

“I found out the Lows are a wealthy but not extraordinarily rich family. Originally they became much richer through Jho's activities.

“His father (noted Penang businessman Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng) had split off with his company and it was a bit of a depressed affluence, and Jho really became the hope for the Low's family future when he went off to Harrow,” she said.

The late journalist Robin Leach was also interviewed for the documentary sometime before his death in August last year, in which he related his experience as a guest at one of Low's birthday parties.

Describing it as a spectacle in every sense, he said the financier hired some 250 attractive models from across the United States to serve as cocktail waitresses, where they served premium champagne to guests including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and musician Kanye West.

“I remember standing at the bar with Britney Spears as she was waiting her turn to go on and sing happy birthday and then Jamie Foxx walks on to be the MC.

“This is no ordinary party. It is like a wedding cake, if you could imagine Mr Money Bags was at the top and then there were these tiers that came down and you were either in tier one or tier two or tier three,” he said, adding that celebrity and hotel heiress Paris Hilton was immediately ushered right into Low's intimate circle.

The documentary premiered on Monday at 9am UK time (Tuesday 4am in Malaysia).

The 38-year old financier is currently on the run from authorities after being accused by the Malaysian authorities of embezzling over RM18 billion from 1MDB, and has also been charged by the Singaporean government with money laundering and receiving stolen property.

He has also been accused of laundering RM1.88 billion in stolen funds via bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, Singapore, Switzerland, and the US. Low, who maintains his innocence, has managed to evade Interpol efforts to find him and is believed to be somewhere in China.

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