Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope
Forget the whales in casinos. Low, from the Billion Dollar Whale, could just be the whale of our times; gambling billions of money, buying high-end real estates, financing movies in Holywood, and accumulating a great deal of highly-priced art and jewellery with some pieces costing to a tune of millions of dollars, all using Malaysian taxpayers money. Don’t believe me? Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“Between October 2009 and June 2010—a period of only eight months—Low and his entourage spent $85 million on alcohol, gambling in Vegas, private jets, renting superyachts, and to pay Playmates and Hollywood celebrities to hang out with them.”
I know! I know! I know!
Honestly, the whole book reads like a fictional thriller, but it is not.
Let’s see; while 1MDB was a state fund that was funded by the former prime minister Najib Razak, Jho Low is believed to be the mastermind. The fund’s goal was to raise funds through debt to fund infrastructure in Malaysia.
And it succeeds in raising billions of money, facilitated by some of the biggest financial institutions and politicians in the Middle East. The problem, though, is that the Malaysian people do not benefit at all. Instead of developing infrastructure in the country, Low embezzles money to help fund political campaigns for the former prime minister, pay off financiers and other people involved in the scam, buy expensive jewellery and art, party, among others.
Funny enough, Low gets to a point where he wants to legitimize the source of his income. One of the most ironic schemes to pull this off was helping fund a production company in Holywood. This is the same company that was behind the production of the Wolf of Wall Street, a movie based on Jordan Belfort’s biography.
By now, Low has made a name for himself. He is hanging out with A-list celebrities, living the life we can only dream about, and having Wall Street investment bankers eat from his pocket just to get a piece of the cake. The scam lasts for years but in the end, it all comes falling apart. Low is now a fugitive, with a series of cases still cropping up.
Tom Wright and Bradley Hope do the story some justice, but I still feel like we could have gotten more from their investigations. For instance, despite a few red flags by major banks that were financing 1MDB, the money would still be channelled to offshore accounts. Jho Low would set up accounts using redolent names and no one would bat an eye.
Maybe we could have used fewer stories on party descriptions and what celebs ate and drank and more on what went behind the closed doors of state offices and investment banks without regulators noticing anything for ears to warrant this kind of money siphoning at the expenses of taxpayers.
Anyways, I do not want to spoil the fun for you, but if you are looking for a true-crime book to read, or are interested in financial market manipulations, you should consider giving this book a read.
My ★ Rating 4
Goodreads ★ Rating 4.06 (as of June 2021)