As the New York Park Lane Hotel goes on the market the sad reality is that it is unlikely to reach was was paid for it when Jho Low bought it mainly with 1MDB’s stolen money.
Prices have dipped and the hotel is in need of refurbishment, Sarawak Report has learnt. By officially surrendering his share the wanted fugitive has enabled the Department of Justice to realise what money is in the asset, but has probably saved himself costs in maintaining it and whatever loans are outstanding.
It means there is likely to be little in the pot once creditors are repaid and whether that will find its way back to Malaysia also remains unanswered. Jho Low originally paid US$654 million for an 85% stake in the hotel out of money stolen from 1MDB. He has also allowed his share in EMI publishing to be cashed out and has given up the Bombardier jet, which has been sitting in Singapore for well over a year.
The plane will not reach at auction what he paid for it and nor will his fancy yacht. Equanimity, bought for a staggering quarter of a billion dollars in 2014, has suffered from resting idle in dock and is no longer spanking new.
It seems that at the moment so many of his assets have turned into liabilities, Jho Low has conveniently started handing them over. That he would start coming to various such agreements with the DOJ was foreseen by Sarawak Report in September, following his hiring of the well-connected lawyer and political figure Chris Christie, who immediately put forward a negotiating stance on behalf of his client.
Make no mistake. This does not affect the criminal charges against Jho Low, which remain, should he be captured. He clearly intends not to be and his lawyers don’t have to say where he is.
The potentially diminished sums available to return to Malaysia sit discomfortingly with the extraordinary amounts of money the alleged thief has been able to shell out to these lawyers and in some cases connected PR companies, who have sought to defend Low and harass reporters covering the story over the past weeks and months.
His lawyer cum PR man James Haggerty has filed receipts of over half a million dollars for assisting the efforts and the London law firm Schillings (which has attempted to prevent the publication of the book The Sarawak Report and other books on Jho Low ) says it has been paid $349,000 for its own efforts.
This stolen 1MDB money apparently will not be reclaimable from these law firms and PR outfits under the law as it now stands, since unlike banks such outfits are not yet required to check if their clients are paying them with criminal cash.
The deals so far raise questions about other known investments of Jho Low. For example the second largest known investment that he made was in a company owned by the US billionaire Thomas Kaplan named Electrum.
Jho Low bought 7% of the venture for $150 million in 2012. Once again Mubadala and the Kuwait investment Authority came in as Jho Low’s co-investors in the project (Mubadala also bought into the Park Lane Hotel and EMI publishing).
Kaplan is well known for his deep politcal interest in the Middle East and for his funding of anti-Iranian pressure groups that are seen as being closely allied to the strategic and political interests of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, both close to the United States government and particularly the current President. So far there has been no indication of any moves to achieve the return of the money invested in Electrum.
Other assets that are as yet unclear in terms of possible restitution over 1MDB relate to money that flowed through the ex-Chairman of Aabar, Khadem Al Qubaisi, who received at least half a billion dollars in kickbacks from 1MDB, according to documents and research published by Sarawak Report and later confirmed by the Department of Justice filings.
That money went to Edmund de Rothschild Bank in Luxembourg, which has faced prosecution by the authorities, however so far little has been said about tracing where the money went, beyond Khadem’s fleet of cars in Switzerland and his properites in Paris and the South of France. A mansion in Beverley Hills and a New York Penthouse have also been seized.
However Khadem was also the main stated beneficial owner of the company Tasameem Real Estate Partners behind the major nightclub chain in Las Vegas, Hakkasan, which spawned an entertainment empire across the world. post 2012. Ownership was temporarily shifted to a relative after ‘KAQ’ was arrested.
Now, none other than Aabar has emerged as the new formal owner of the British registered business, with an American lawyer and accountant registered amongst the new directors. Aabar and its parent fund IPIC have, of course, been absorbed by Mubadala in the wake of the scandalous associations with 1MDB.
Aabar is now itself locked in a full-scale battle through its parent entity IPIC with the Malaysian government over its alleged collusion over the 1MDB thefts and attempts to achieve a multi-billion dollar settlement in its favour, which the Malaysian Attorney General has now complained was fraudulent in the UK High Court.
Khadem al Qubaisi also privately engaged in a number of investments together with Aabar in major properties and businesses in New York, Europe (for example the massive Santander complex in Madrid) and in the Middle East.
The conflict of interest was plain on his part, as Aabar’s chief decision maker on investments. However, there has been no official information so far as to what extent these assets or Hakkasan may have been acquired thanks to the 1MDB half billion dollar kickback received by ‘KAQ’ and if so whether pressure will be brought on the sovereign wealth fund of this US ally to assist in releasing back the cash.