The Multi-Million Dollar Gambling Trips of Jho Low
Jho Low, the mastermind behind the 1MDB scandal was an obsessive gambler and frequently parted with millions of dollars without a sweat. A lot has been reported on the 1MDB case, and the shady world of offshore finance has again been brought into scrutiny over this mesmerizing heist. In this article, we look at some of the eye-watering gambling trips Mr. Low is reported to have enjoyed at the behest of the Malaysian taxpayers.
The international fugitive and financier Jho Low is being pursued by multiple international authorities in Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States, following the submission of an Interpol Red Alert notice by the Malaysian police. Low is accused of orchestrating a fraud that is estimated to have siphoned more than $4.5 billion into his personal accounts, and at the height of his activities, he partied with A-list celebrities, owned private jets and yachts, enjoying the largest source of liquid cash available to any individual in the world.
It is one of the most phenomenal stories unfolding currently in the world of finance. People are fascinated by just how he did it, Jho Low’s crimes were not akin the Bernie Madoff who ran a Ponzi scheme and paid “profits” back to old investors with money raised by new investors, nor were they similar to the architects behind the real-estate debt bubble that led to the 2008 global financial crisis. Low’s scheme was purely a product of the modern generation, an era where murky offshore banking havens help cash-rich criminals own assets behind the cover of complex financial structures and layers of shell companies.
By leveraging a brazen and calculated gift for networking, Jho Low was able to fashion for himself the illusion of being a key-decision maker and emissary for a state government. In this position there really was no limits on how far he could ascend, the tales of exuberant spending and jet-setter lifestyle are already widely publicized. But the focus on the benefits the gambling industry enjoyed at the whim of one of their biggest ever whales is truly something worth recounting.
Nosebleed Stakes in Macau
The weekly travel schedule of Jho Low back in 2010 looked something like that of an international pop star on a global tour. Breakfast would be taken in London before jumping on the jet to enjoy a dinner in New York, then it was onwards to Asia, with a quick stop in Switzerland to explain a weird transaction to some bankers. Once in Asia Jho Low would allocate much of his time between Macau, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur. It was in Macau that the city casinos found the customer they had long been waiting for.
Macau’s casinos have been used to oil-rich Arabs and Russians splashing huge sums of money, but in the late 2000s came a new kind of rich nobody had ever seen before. Here was a round-faced young Asian man willing to part with millions of dollars a time, and barely break a sweat when he lost. The rumors about the origins of his wealth quickly began to swirl, some claimed he was an arms dealer, others that he was part of a royal family in Asia. But much like every other person on the beneficiary side of a transaction with Jho Low back in those days, they were happy to just accept what they saw and ask few questions.
Baccarat was the game of choice for Jho Low when he did like to indulge in high-stakes gambling- often flanked by an entourage of models and celebrities, sometimes teaching the complexities of the game to his bemused ‘friends-for-hire’, or even handing them half-million stacks of chips directly to gamble with. In one incident, Jho Low is said to have gifted Paris Hilton $250,000 worth of chips at a casino boat party event he was hosting.
But it was in Macau on early-morning solo gambling sessions that Jho Low truly embraced the limitless gambling potential of his stolen fortune. He was truly passionate about gambling and loved to frequent his favorite establishments across Asia and the United States, where he would easily drop millions of dollars over the course of an evening.
Of course, for Jho Low this was about more than purely enjoying the pleasures of gambling. He was using the leisure industry’s most exclusive VIP offerings as his own personal corporate events facility, often holding court with his associates or wealthy prospects he was trying to impress at some of the gambling industry’s most glamorous venues. The true extent of his gambling expenditure is not known, as his spending was so relentless and carried out on a global scale. But to put some perspective on it, his free-spending and high-roller reputation have never again been matched in Macau.
Harsh Lessons: The Legacy of Jho Low
Some of the world’s most famous celebrities from Leonardo di Caprio and Miranda Kerr, as well as Heads of State, wealth-fund managers, Goldman Sachs bankers, and real-estate developers all bought into the façade meticulously designed by Jho Low. Often revered by his pals as the ‘Asian Gatsby’, it was a fitting nickname for a man that liked to operate behind the scenes and craft huge networks of the world’s most wealthy and powerful.
It will be a long-time before the full extent of the damages incurred is truly accounted for, but for now, many of those that feel into his scheme will be looking at themselves hard and trying to justify what they partook from. It was akin to eating the forbidden fruit, many of those who benefited from Low knew the legitimacy of his funds were questionable at the very least, and yet still many of them failed to see any harm in becoming an accessory to a shady businessman that seemingly had no victims.
The legacy of Jho Low will be one that earmarks the defining failures of the early 21st century. Where an ultra-capitalist and materialistic culture has been allowed to over-extend and exploit poorly defined and outdated bureaucratic protocols. Not to mention a major re-organization of the global financial system that enables criminals to park their wealth in murky offshore banks and tax havens.