Here's All You Need To Know About The 'Billion Dollar Whale' Book On Jho Low
The highly anticipated book, 'Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World', has been the talk of the town since its release in Malaysia last week, 13 September
It took the authors three years to investigate and write about one of the largest financial heists in history, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The book centres mainly around fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, who allegedly siphoned billions from the 1MDB state fund.
The book, written by Wall Street Journal reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, has already sold out at major Klang Valley bookstores
Pirated copies of a PDF version of the book was recently circulating on social media causing buyers to cancel their pre-orders of the book.
However, Wright urged the public to stop leaking the copy and that the book publishing company can take legal action against anyone who forwards the e-book as it has an embedded digital footprint, reported The Star.
1. It is believed that Jho Low had been running the scandal-ridden 1MDB from behind the scenes without former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak's full knowledge
In an interview with Coconuts.co, Wright said that based on their initial investigations, they understood Jho Low to have been Najib's bagman.
However, as time went by and more research was done, it became clear that the Penang-born businessman was the only one who had the "360 (degree) view of what was going on".
"He had the prime minister as cover. He ran a sovereign wealth fund which has more money than hedge fund and private equity combined. This guy was running it from behind the scenes, he had the cover. When you are dealing with that kind of money, people don't ask questions, compliance totally broke down here," the Wall Street Journal reporter said on Squawk Box, the US network CNBC's programme.
2. Najib knew what was going on with the scandal – to some extent
Although fugitive financier Jho Low allegedly ran the show, Wright added that he did not think Najib is completely innocent either.
According to Wright, the former prime minister knew the money was a "political slush fund, that they were getting hundreds of millions of dollars for Umno, and that his family was getting mansions, and running film companies", which Najib may have seen as benefits to being Malaysia's prime minister then.
"Terribly corrupt. Not saying it's not. But did Najib know that Jho Low had run the fund in a way that took out USD4.5 billion (RM18.6 billion), USD5 billion (RM20 billion), maybe USD6 billion (RM24.8 billion) dollars? I don't think so," Wright said, during the interview.
"I think he (Najib) was disengaged from the day-to-day processes in a way that Jho Low was not. Jho Low was running the show."
3. WhatsApp messages revealed that Jho Low was allegedly stealing billions of dollars and directing it into Najib's bank account
Coconuts.co reported Wright as saying that Low was the "puppet master" and that he was responsible in coordinating the transfer of USD681 million (RM2.6 billion) into Najib's bank account.
According to the book, Low stole at least USD5 billion (RM20.7 billion) from 1MDB.
"I think when we got hold of WhatsApp messages between Jho Low and a number of people, including bankers at Malaysian banks, where he is clearly directing them to do this with money, do that with money, move money into the prime minister's accounts, out of his accounts.
"You saw through those WhatsApp messages that he was the puppet master... telling the bank that USD680 million (RM2.6 billion) would be arriving from overseas," Wright said, reported the news site.
The author claimed in a tweet yesterday, 18 September that Low diverted 1MDB money to produce "The Wolf of Wall Street", to buy artwork, real estate, companies, a hedge fund stake, and a Manhattan hotel to be converted into luxury apartments.
4. A person who was close to Jho Low had referred him as being "on the autism spectrum"
As Wright and Hope conducted more reporting, they received a lot of access to people who were with Jho Low towards the end.
"I'm not a medical expert, but one person who was close to him referred to him as being 'on the autism spectrum'," Wright told Coconuts.co during the interview.
"Things like buying multiple pairs of shoes, not being able to focus, being on multiple devices, an insane ability to remember numbers down to decimal points. But yeah, in some ways he's (Low) inscrutable," he added.
You can read the full interview with Coconuts.co here.
5. Hope suggested that there are crucial lessons to learn from the 1MDB scandal
"All along there were red flags that people could have easily kept following. All along there were auditors who could have gone a little bit further and could have seen there was a fiction that was covering some of this stuff," Hope said on US network CNBC.
Low currently has outstanding arrest warrants issued by the Malaysian police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal.
6. Jho Low has been trying to stop the sale of the book through his lawyers since its launch
The Guardian reported that Low's lawyers have sent threatening letters to bookstores worldwide to block the distribution of the book.
In the report, his London-based libel lawyers claimed that the "allegations in the book are defamatory and wholly untrue" and have effectively prevented the distribution of the book in the UK.
However, the book has received positive reviews in the US even before its release.
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