Low Taek Jho is an international fugitive accused of stealing billions in Malaysia's largest ever corruption scandal. According to documents from the US Justice Department, US$4.5 billion dollars was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a fund created to promote economic development in Malaysia. Low is commonly considered to be the mastermind behind the misappropriation scheme, an allegation he has consistently denied.
Low's attempt to buy a Maltese passport
In criminal complaints filed against Low in both the United States and Malaysia for his involvement in the 1MDB scandal, payments made to another passport-buyer, Henley & Partners client Shaher Awartani, were flagged as suspicious. Low applied to buy a Maltese passport in 2015, declaring his occupation as Chief Executive Officer of Jynwel Capital Limited. Henley & Partners' response was that “entering into a business relationship would pose undue reputational risk and/or disrepute to Henley & Partners therefore the prospect is not eligible to apply for any other programme or services offered by Henley & Partners.” However, records seen by the Passport Papers consortium indicate that the firm issued invoices to Low and that they were paid.
Re-routed to Cyprus
After Low's attempt to purchase a Maltese passport failed, he obtained Cypriot citizenship with the help of a property purchase facilitated by Henley & Partners subsidiary Henley Estates in 2016. Documents published by Politis show that Henley Estates received a €650,000 commission on the purchase of a €5 million property in Cyprus in connection with Low's citizenship application. The commission on the property deal was paid to Henley Estates' bank account in Malta.
In a statement published on their website, Henley & Partners denied that Low was their client. In response to questions regarding Jho Low, Henley & Partners confirmed their initial denial that Low was ever a client of the firm. Yet documents indicate that two separate payments for fees for services “provided to Mr. Taek Jho Low” were made to Henley & Partners: €32,130 to a Henley & Partners account in Cyprus and €27,000 to a Henley & Partners account in Hong Kong.
Henley & Partners has since enhanced its governance standards and adjusted contracts with real estate partners. Low Taek Jho's whereabouts remain unknown.
Low Taek Jho, Jynwel Capital, and Shaher Awartani did not respond to multiple requests for comment.