Wising up to a Billion Dollar Whale of a tale


 

Wising up to a whale of a tale

Once upon a time, Malaysians were enchanted with Jho Lows champagne lifestyle and proud that he had friends in high places. We now know better.

IF a poll was conducted to ask Malaysians to name their 10 most hated people, Low Taek Jho – also known as Jho Low – would surely be in the top five, if not three.

There has been a quick succession of books on the 1Malaysia Dev­elopment Bhd (1MDB) saga and in the one by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Billion Dollar Whale, Low is the central villainous character.

Yet for a brief shining moment, this man was the pride of his home state and the nation.

Then Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng was reported as saying that he was proud to note the accomplishments of overseas Pen­angites, including this particularly “well-connected” fellow.

That was back in July 2010 when a mysterious Malaysian man of means started hitting the headlines for partying with the likes of Paris Hilton, and counted actors Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio and singer Usher as his good friends.

When Hilton – the glamour party girl before the Kardashians overtook her – was detained by drug enforcement officers in Paris in 2010, she was reportedly travelling with “personalities close to power in Malay­sia”, Low being identified as one of them.

In just three months, his champagne-infused big spending ways – US$50,000 (RM206,800) or US$60,000 (RM248,190) a pop – set New York’s nightlife scene on fire and caught the attention of the US media. And that was how Low became famous.

Oh wait! He’s Malaysian, not some little emperor from Shanghai or Shen­zhen, so we puffed up with pride at the success of one of our own.

Somehow, the ability to party with the rich and famous became a yardstick for success. The assumption was that Low must have done something great to be so filthy rich and make such “friends”.

Low, then 28, became a subject of intense curiosity that Malaysian and foreign media wanted to know.

Then The Star landed an exclusive interview with him. The two hours with him provided enough fodder for stories spread over two days on July 29 and 30, 2010.

The interview covered topics like his Arab childhood friends and investors whom he said were the real big spenders, how he made his first million when he was just 20 and his expertise in setting up sovereign wealth funds.

Yes, we were pretty pleased with ourselves for beating the competition in getting Low to speak.

The interview was picked up by other newspapers and portals locally, regionally and internationally.

The Star took efforts to provide Low’s personal details like his age, birthplace, education and languages spoken.

What I also found amusing was that we also gave his height (1.7m) and his weight (88kg), which is not common for such interviews. That was probably our nice way of indicating how chubby he was.

The stories were positive pieces, painting Low as a successful role model. Of course, at that time, no one suspected that he was the mastermind behind the world’s biggest kleptocracy.

We were simply dazzled by his partying playboy high life and accepted in good faith all his claims on why he was successful: he went to the right schools, from Chung Ling to Wharton School of Business, made well-connected, influential friends (especially Arab royals) and got a great financial start.

As The Star reported: “At the age of 20, (he) started an investment company called The Wynton Group with US$25mil (RM103.4mil) from family and South-East Asian and Middle Eastern friends. The investment company in which he owns a stake is now worth in excess of US$1bil (RM4.1bil).”

Penang businessman Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping, a close family friend, described Low as a very bright person who respected his elders.

He was also “an active person, has a corporate brain and his public relations skills are equally good. He’s also quite a fast eater.

“I watched him grow up since he was a kid and I knew he was brilliant, but I never thought he would be so successful,” said Tan.

A reader who was so impressed by the Star exclusive blogged about his son having studied in Harrow in Bangkok and opined: “He (the son) is certainly no Jho Low, but I hope he can learn the positives from Jho’s life and work hard and be successful.”

Well, we now know better how Low operated and whose money he was spending on his celebrity friends and more.

From the man with the Midas touch, he has become the embarrassment no famous person wants to touch. I doubt Hilton or Usher takes his calls anymore. He is a fugitive on the lam, hunted by governments around the globe.

Much as he is furiously claiming innocence, he is indeed our billion-dollar whale. The whale is a metaphor in business, meaning to land large accounts that can transform a small company into a major player.

A whale can also mean a businessman who is close to a country’s regime, is protected by the state and receives government contracts and large bank loans without any collateral, as explained in the book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty.

The maddening fact is this portly plunderer is hard to find. He apparently has multiple passports, including one from St Kitts and Nevis.

It’s very possible he is no longer 88kg. He could be thinner or fatter – depending on whether stress makes him eat even more and faster – or had plastic surgery, grown or lost his hair, but he should still be 1.7m tall, unless he wears hidden heels in his shoes.

Our government has said it is not sure where he’s hiding, but with Malaysians in just about every corner of the world, can we not somehow tap into this vast network? Even a whale must surface for air somehow, somewhere.

What really got my goat was what he glibly said in the Star interview: “Ultimately, I am Malaysian. I am one who does not forget my country and I think there is a lot we can do for Malaysia. But when you build the trust of investors, you need to deliver what you promised.

“For me, we all work very hard. Of course, we have a disadvantage where at our age, people may perceive it differently. At the end of the day, I handle investors’ money prudently. I generate returns for them.”

And this: “I am not an excessive person. Excessiveness with alcohol is just not me.”

No, not in alcohol but his name is now synonymous with excessiveness in luxury acquisitions.

Oh, where’s Capt Ahab when we need him?

Aunty wants to remind all of us that truly, all that glitters is not gold. Feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my

Credit:  June H. L Wong, So aunty, so what?

 

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Get-rich-quick ‘Bitcoin Formula’ exposed: Vincent Tan denies investing US$250m



 

Vincent Tan denies investing US$250m in get-rich-quick ‘Formula’

PETALING JAYA: Berjaya Corp Bhd founder and executive chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun (<<pic) has denied investing US$250 million in a project known as “The Formula” which allegedly promises huge profits and quick riches.

Tan said in a statement today said that the ‘The Formula’ is supposedly a share trading platform that allows trades executed through it to beat the stock market with an accuracy of 80% thereby allowing users to make huge profits.

“I refer to a current online media entitled ‘Vincent Tan gives back to the people with his latest project” wherein it is reported that I have invested US$250 million in a project known as “The Formula” with a wish to make Malaysians wealthy.

“I would like to categorically deny that I have made an investment in this project or that I am in any way involved in it and there is absolutely no truth in this report which I believe has been put out by unscrupulous persons to deceive the public,” Tan said.

Tan has reported the matter to the relevant authorities so that appropriate action can be taken and urged the public to take caution on promises of quick riches and not to fall prey to scams.

Tan said this is not the first time his name has been used in similar instances for the purpose of lending credibility to online investment scams.

On June 28 (see below), Tan exposed a dubious startup trading platform called “Bitcoin Formula” which used his name and doctored photos to promote its business.

An article claiming he had invested in and was promoting Bitcoin Formula, together with some photographs, was circulated on social media.

The article was accompanied by a few photographs, one showing Tan allegedly awarding a cheque for RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula for winning the “Project of the Year” prize in a computer engineering “hackathon” in Kuala Lumpur, and another picture of him apparently speaking about Bitcoin Formula at a social media business summit.

Both pictures were in fact images altered with the use of photo-editing software and had originally been taken by theSun in March 2014 and January last year.

A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia found that no company by the name of Bitcoin Formula exists.

Credit:  Kevin Deva newsdesk@thesundaily.com

‘Bitcoin Formula’ exposed

 

This picture of Tan Sri Vincent Tan speaking at the Social Economic Forum at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan in the Philippines was doctored to appear as if he was promoting Bitcoin Formula

PETALING JAYA: Berjaya group founder and executive chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan has blown the whistle on a dubious startup trading platform called “Bitcoin Formula”, which has used his name and doctored photos to promote its business.

It came to Tan’s attention that an article claiming he had invested in and was promoting Bitcoin Formula, together with some photographs, was being circulated on social media after a friend who saw it asked him if it would indeed be a good investment.

“How can it be a good investment when the operators have to resort to such dishonest ways like using my name in fake reports and doctored photographs to promote their business?” he said.

“I think anyone who invests in such a shady business will surely lose their money,” said Tan, who urged the public not to be deceived by such posts on social media.

The article about the company, that purports to promote blockchain and crypto technologies, claimed Tan had donated RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula, a supposed financial startup by young computer engineers developing an efficient trading platform.

The article was accompanied by a few photographs, one showing Tan allegedly awarding a cheque for RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula for winning the “Project of the Year” prize in a computer engineering “hackathon” in Kuala Lumpur, and another picture of him apparently speaking about Bitcoin Formula at a social business summit.

Both pictures were in fact images altered with the use of photo-editing software, and had originally been taken by theSun in March 2014 and January last year.

The cheque presentation photo was actually of Tan presenting a RM500,000 award to representatives of Dharma Master Cheng Yen of the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation after she was named Better Malaysia Foundation’s Personality of the Year in 2015.

The other image was taken when Tan was speaking at the Social Economic Forum that was held at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan, in the Philippines.

A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia found that no company by the name of Bitcoin Formula exists.

Tan is apparently the latest prominent person whose name had been used by get-rich-quick scheme operators to scam unsuspecting people, and prominent tycoons like AirAsia founder Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and “Sugar King” Robert Kuok were among people whose names have been used by these scammers.

Tan also dismissed a Facebook article claiming that he will be donating RM525 million to Tabung Harapan Malaysia.

“There is absolutely no truth to either of these reports, that I believe have been put out by unscrupulous persons to deceive the public. I hope the public do not get fooled by these fake reports,” he added.


Credit:  Amar Shah Mohsen newsdesk@thesundaily.com

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Be ready – financial crisis is near


Prepare Now for the Next Financial Crisis

THE financial crisis affecting developing countries arrived in full-scale fashion in our region last week when the Indonesian economy experienced shocks reminiscent of the Asian crisis 20 years ago.

With the crisis coming so close to home, it is time to contemplate what may unfold in the near future and list measures to respond to each scenario, so that we are not taken by surprise.

The agreement reached with Singa­pore to postpone construction of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project until end-May 2020 (with Malaysia paying S$15mil [RM45.1mil] in cost) was an achievement. It allows us a gap of two years before having to meet the mega project’s large expenses.

The next couple of years will be crucial, as the country will be in the midst of managing the “perfect storm” of servicing the trillion-ringgit government debt and preventing the government deficit from ballooning, while facing the challenges of the emerging global financial crisis.

In this tight situation, every billion ringgit counts; indeed every single ringgit counts.

As more discoveries are made of missing money, whether due to the 1MDB scandal or unpaid tax refunds, there is increasing pressure to save money and cut costs to avoid wider deficits.

So the HSR’s two-year deferment helps a lot. It may be like kicking the can down the street, but hopefully, the situation will improve by the end of the two years to allow the can to be picked up, especially if during the period, ways are found to cut the overall cost of the project.

Other projects too have to be scrutinised. Besides the East Coast Rail Link and Trans Sabah gas pipeline projects, there are many other projects whose costs have to be examined, and whose implementation can be postponed or cancelled.

Besides the scourge of overpricing and kickbacks, there is the over-riding concern that a financial crisis has to be averted.

Indonesia’s Energy Minister last week announced that energy projects worth US$25bil (RM103.64bil) and representing half of President Joko Widodo’s grand electricity programme, would be postponed or restructured. This is to save US$8bil (RM33.1bil) to US$10bil (rm41.45bil) on imports for the projects.

Indonesia is also raising tariffs to 10% on over 1,000 goods in a move to reduce the import bill.

These are some measures the country is forced to take as its economy enters full crisis mode. It could even face a meltdown of the 1998-99 scale. The rupiah fell to almost 15,000 per US dollar, the lowest point since the 1998 crisis.

Indonesia is vulnerable to a financial crisis due to its dual deficits (in the current account and government budget), large external debt and high foreign ownership of equity and government bonds.

Indonesia is caught in a vicious cycle, which is typical when financially liberalised countries follow orthodox fire-fighting policies. When the markets perceive that the external reserves could be insufficient to pay for imports, service debts and absorb potential capital outflows, the currency depreciates.

The perception sparks a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fall in currency makes it more difficult for the government and companies to service foreign loans, and also prompts investors to pull out their money.

In such a situation, the government raises the interest rate to incentivise investors to retain their money in the country. Indonesian interest rates have risen by 1.25 percentage points since May.

However, the side effect is that homebuyers and companies find it more difficult to service their mortgage and business loans. Credit slows down, and so does the economy. This in turn causes the currency to drop further, prompting more rounds of interest rate increases, which lead to loan defaults and bankruptcies.

The economy goes into recession, leading to more capital outflows, including by local people. The currency drops again, recession deepens, and the cycle continues.

Indonesia is still at the start of this cycle. Hopefully it will find the policy tools, including unorthodox ones that work, to avoid a long stay in the spiral. But Indonesia is by no means alone. Argentina and Turkey are deep in their crises, and more and more countries are suffering the contagion effect, including South Africa, India, Iran and the Philippines.

Following the 2008-09 global financial crisis that especially hit the United States and Europe, many hundreds of billions of dollars rushed to emerging markets, including Malaysia, in search of higher yields. The liquidity was created by quantitative easing (government pumping money into the banking system) and low interest rates in the US and Europe.

Now the funds are leaving the emerging economies and returning to the US. This is due to the US policy reversing to quantitative tightening, the rise in its interest rates, and fears of an emerging market crisis and a worsening trade war.

Developing countries vulnerable to currency decline, a pull-out of funds and a crisis are those with significant current account deficits, government budget deficits and debts; low foreign reserves; large external debt; and high foreign ownership of local bonds and equities.

Malaysia is so far safe but it is wise not to be complacent. It is not easy to escape contagion once it spreads.

A few warning signs have appeared, such as a narrowing of the current account surplus and significant portfolio investment outflows (both in the second quarter), and a weakening of the ringgit, besides the larger than previously reported government debt and the need to prevent the budget deficit from increasing.

The old Scout motto, “Be Prepared”, comes in handy at times like this. It is good to prepare now for any eventuality, so as to avoid being caught by surprise.

Credit: Martin Khor Global Trends The Staronline

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Rocky times ahead for China FDI in Malaysia


Li: ‘Malaysia must remember that by targeting Chinese investors in an unreasonable way, this will scare away not only FDI from China, but also from other countries.’ – credit: Malaysia Today

Great wall of controversy: Dr Mahathir’s criticism of Alliance Steel’s barricade for its RM6bil integrated steel
complex has upset some Chinese investors.

A series of attacks on China-funded projects in Malaysia by the Prime Minister is causing anxiety not only to Chinese nationals but also locals.

INVESTMENTS and mega contracts linked to China will have to brace for rocky times ahead if Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad continues unchecked with his incessant tirade against Chinese endeavours in Malaysia.

The golden era for Chinese investments, which possibly peaked during the rule of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, seems to have come to an unceremonious end.

The future of foreign direct investment (FDI) from China is now seen as unpredictable – at least for the next 3-5 years – under the new government of Dr Mahathir, according to Datuk Keith Li, president of China Entrepreneurs Association in Malaysia.

Li: ‘Malaysia must remember that by targeting Chinese investors in an unreasonable way, this will scare away not only FDI from China, but also from other countries.

“The series of comments made on Chinese investments by the PM have affected the confidence of Chinese investors. Those who originally wanted to come are adopting a wait-and-see attitude, while those already in are careful about their expansion plans,” says Li in an interview with Sunday Star.

The outspoken leader of Chinese firms notes that businessmen from the mainland are “worried”, although some comments of the Prime Minister were later “clarified” by other Cabinet Ministers or the PM’s Office.

“Malaysia must remember that by targeting Chinese investors in an unreasonable way, this will scare away not only FDI from China, but also from other countries as well,” adds Li.

Since his five-day official visit to China that ended on Aug 21, the 93-year-old Malaysian leader has caused anxiety to all by making shocking announcements.

While summing up his China trip on Aug 21, he declared he would cancel the RM55bil East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and two gas pipelines being built by Chinese firms.

As the ECRL is of strategic importance to China’s Belt and Road Initiative – the policy which Dr Mahathir has repeatedly voiced his support for, Beijing would expect a renegotiation of the contract terms rather than an outright cancellation.

Dr Mahathir had reasoned that with national debt of over RM1 trillion, Malaysia could not afford these projects. In addition, these contracts are tainted with unfair terms and smacked of high corruption.
Although the Prime Minister said Chinese leaders understood Malaysia’s situation, reactions of Chinese nationals on social media were unforgiving with many suspecting Dr Mahathir “has other motives”.

Many see Dr Mahathir as attempting to raise Malaysia’s bargaining power in the negotiation for compensation for the cancelled projects. China, according to social media talk, is asking for RMB50bil as compensation.

On social media, there are also suggestions that Dr Mahathir is aiming at his predecessor as most China-linked projects were launched during the rule of Najib.

During the rule of Najib, Malaysia-China relations were intimate.

This has resulted in the influx of major construction and property companies from the mainland, followed by banks and industries.

But on May 9, Dr Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan coalition toppled the Barisan Nasional government of Najib after the most bitterly fought general election in local history.

The second-time premier has put the blame on Najib for the massive 1MDB financial scandal, which Najib has denied, and mismanagement of the country’s finance.

And while the Chinese nationals are all riled up by the cancellation of ECRL, Dr Mahathir came up with an ill-advised statement.

Last week he ordered a wall surrounding Alliance Steel, which is investing US$1.4bil (RM6bil) for a massive steel complex, to be demolished. This was seen as unreasonably targeting a genuine FDI.

Although the foreign ministry later clarified that the leader had mistaken the wall to be built around the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP), the anger of Chinese nationals lingers on.

The industrial park is a G-to-G project to jointly promote bilateral investments. There is an even bigger sister industrial park in China that houses many Malaysian firms. All these were built during Najib’s reign.

Dr Mahathir’s statement has also caught the attention of China’s Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China.

In an editorial on Aug 28, the news portal warned: “Many words of Kuala Lumpur can spread to China via the Internet, causing different reactions. How the Chinese public sees China-Malaysia cooperation is by no means inconsequential to Malaysia’s interests.”

It noted “while Dr Mahathir advocates pursuing a policy of expanding friendly cooperation with China … but when it comes to specific China-funded projects, his remarks gave rise to confusion. Like this time, it is startling to equate the controversy surrounding a factory wall with state sovereignty.”

Global Times added: “When such remarks are heard by Chinese people, the latter find it piercing. They will definitely make Chinese investors worry about Malaysian public opinion and whether such an atmosphere will affect investment in the country.”

In fact, it would be unwise for the government to disrupt MCKIP. Co-owned by Chinese, IJM Corporation and Pahang government, this industrial park has lured in Chinese FDI of over RM20bil.

It is an important economic driver in the East Coast and has aimed to create 19,000 jobs by 2020.

While the “wall” statement might be seen as a minor mistake, Dr Mahathir’s flawed announcement last Monday that foreigners would be barred from buying residential units in the US$100bil (RM410bil) Forest City stirred another uproar.

On Aug 27, Reuters quoted Dr Mahathir as saying: “That city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners. Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats.”

Currently being developed by Country Garden Holdings of China, this 20-year long project, built on reclaimed land in Johor Bahru, aims to house 700,000 people. As about 70% of the house buyers are Chinese, some locals fear this could turn into a China town.

Unlike Alliance Steel that has stayed silent, Country Garden fought back by seeking clarifications from the PM’s Office.

In a statement, the major Chinese developer said all its property transactions had complied with Malaysian laws.

Citing Section 433B of the National Land Code, it added a foreign citizen or a foreign company may acquire land in Malaysia subject to the prior approval of the State Authority.

In addition, it said Dr Mahathir’s comment did not correspond with the content of the meeting he had with Country Garden founder and chairman Yeung Kwok Keung on Aug 16.

During the meeting, Dr Mahathir said he welcomed foreign investments which could create job opportunities, promote technology transfer and innovations.

In fact, this forest city project – along with ECRL – were the main targets of attack by Dr Mahathir before the May 9 election.

Opposition to these projects had helped drive Dr Mahathir’s election campaign, during which he said was evidence of Najib selling Malaysia’s sovereignty to China.

These projects, together with major construction contracts won by Chinese and the inflow of industrial investments, place the total value of Chinese deals at more than RM600bil in Malaysia.

But few would expect Dr Mahathir to use his powerful position to resume his attacks on China-linked projects so soon after his so-called “fruitful visit” to Beijing.

During his official visit to Beijing, the Malaysian leader was accorded the highest honour by China, due mainly to respect for “China’s old friend” and strong Malaysia-China relations built since 1975.

Dr Mahathir was chauffeured in Hongqi L5 limousine, reserved for the most honourable leaders, and greeted in an official welcome ceremony by Premier Li Keqiang. He was also guest of honour at a banquet at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse hosted by President Xi Jinping.

But beneath these glamorous receptions, there were reservations exuded by the Chinese for this leader whose premiership is scheduled to end in two years.

There were no exciting business deals signed in Beijing. There was absence of high diplomatic rhetoric that “Malaysia-China ties have been elevated to another historic high”, oft-repeated during Najib’s past visits.

Many even notice that Premier Li and Dr Mahathir had a cool handshake after their short joint press conference in Beijing.

And although China promised to buy Malaysian palm oil, the statement was qualified with “price sensitivity”, which means it will not buy above market price.

In addition, there was no mention of “buying palm oil without upper limit”, which was promised to Najib last year.

If Dr Mahathir’s original intention was to target Forest City and its owners, his move has certainly backfired. The country will have to pay a price for his off-the-cuff statement.

The “new policy” will have serious ramifications as it would hit the value of the properties not only in Forest City but also in other China-linked and non-Chinese projects.

Country Garden’s Danga Bay project will also be hit. It now faces a more daunting task of selling the balance of about 2,000 units in Danga Bay, according to a Starbiz report.

Other Chinese developers like R&F Princess Cove and Greenland Group will be affected.

VPC Alliance Malaysia managing director James Wong told Starbiz there may be legal suits against the government.

“That may force Country Garden to scale down because it has invested a lot with its industrial building systems factory and an international school, among other investments. It will impact Country Garden and Malaysia’s property sector negatively,” Wong said.

“Foreign buyers and other foreign companies will shy away,” Wong added.

The change in government and the insensitive comments on China-funded projects have turned Malaysia into a high-risk investment destination for the Chinese, according to Li.

“We don’t know which China projects will be targeted next. Looking back, it’s a blessing in disguise that we were pushed out of the RM200bil Bandar Malaysia project. It is also lucky that Chinese money has not gone into the RM30bil Melaka Gateway project,” says Li, who owns a travel agency in Malaysia.

“In the immediate future, more tourists from China are likely to shy away from Malaysia.

“Malaysia may not hit the target of having three million visits from China this year,” Li adds.

Credit: Ho Wah Foon The Star

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1MDB scandal: Cops charge Lows, How Low will Jho go? He proclaims innocence!


‘He helped, among others, bring down a government that had ruled for 61 years, helped
bring criminal charges against a former premier and friend, and catalyzed the return of a 93 year old man to power
… – S. Jayasankaran’
Headline News

 

Cops file charges against the Lows  

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have filed criminal charges against businessman Low Taek Jho and his father for offences under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 over money allegedly stolen from 1Malay­sia Development Bhd (1MDB).

A source said the charges were filed in absentia by the police with the sanction of the Attorney Gen­eral’s Chambers at the Putrajaya Sessions Court yesterday morning.

According to the charge sheets made available to The Star, Low – also known as Jho Low – is facing eight counolice have filed criminal charges against businessman Low Taek Jho and his father for offences under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 over money allegedly stolen from 1Malay­sia Development Bhd (1MDB).A source said the charges were fts of money laundering.

In the first, second and third charges, the 37-year-old allegedly received US$261,449,960 from unlawful activities into his BSI Bank Limited account.

In the fourth to eighth charges, he allegedly transferred €41,100,073.22 and US$140,636,225.10 into the account of World View Limited, Caymans Island, in Caledonian Bank Limited, Caymans Island.

The offences were allegedly committed at BSI Bank Limited, No.7, Temasek Boulevard, #32-01 Suntec Tower One, Singapore, between Dec 26, 2013, and June 3, 2014.

Jho Low’s father Tan Sri Low Hock Peng, 66, also faces a charge of money laundering where he allegedly transferred monies from unlawful activity amounting to US$56,449,980 from his bank account into his son’s BSI Bank Limited account.

He allegedly committed the offence at the same BSI Bank Limited on Feb 4, 2014.

All the charges were under Section 4(1)(a) of the Act, which carries a fine up to RM5mil, imprisonment for a term up to five years, or both, upon conviction.

The source said police also applied for warrants of arrest for Jho Low and his father.

The source said a portion of the money was used to purchase the luxury yacht Equanimity, which was seized by Malaysia two weeks ago.

Under Section 401 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an absent person with no immediate prospect of arrest may be tried by the court for an offence in his absence.

In a related development, Inspec­tor-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the new charges enabled the Royal Malaysia Police to obtain new warrants of arrest for Jho Low and his father.

“From there, we will ask Interpol to issue a fresh Red Notice alert on the duo. The Red Notice will seek the cooperation of relevant countries in tracking down the wanted persons,” he told The Star.

The Red Notice will also expedite the extradition process, which will be handled by the Attorney General’s Chambers, and to bring the duo back to Malaysia, he said.

“Our priority has always been to track them down and detain them as soon as possible,” he added.

Based on the charge sheets seen by The Star, journalists visited Jho Low’s family home in Tanjung Bungah, Penang, but no one appeared to be home.- The Star.

 Statement by Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd

Despite being owners of the yacht in question, Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd. has received no legally valid notice of any filing related to a Sale Pendente Lite, nor any notice of a pending court hearing in the matter. This would be a requirement under law.

We also note that there are ongoing proceedings before U.S. courts – including a U.S. appellate court – regarding the ownership and custody of the asset, with active requests filed before a U.S. judge within the past 24 hours. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Justice submitted a filing in the U.S. court less than one week ago. For Malaysia to act unilaterally while there are pending court requests in the U.S. would be an affront to the international rule of law. In fact, Malaysia’s seizure of the vessel is already contrary to a U.S. court order appointing the U.S. Government as custodian of the yacht.

The U.S. has previously stated that it had no advance knowledge of Malaysia’s seizure of the yacht, and presumably the U.S. had no advance notice of this current Malaysian action either. It is important to note that, despite conflicting statements coming out of the Malaysian government, the U.S. has not proven its case regarding the Equanimity. The U.S. has only filed unproven allegations in court proceedings, after which the U.S. put the entire case on hold over Claimants’ objections. The result of that is that no party has been able to substantively respond to the allegations, and nor has the U.S. been required to prove them.

In addition, it is indisputably clear that Malaysia’s seizure of the vessel and apparent intent to immediately sell it goes entirely against the interests of the yacht and will drastically reduce – indeed, it is already drastically reducing – its potential sale value. Due to the Malaysian government’s precipitous, ill-conceived, and misguided actions, the yacht is running 24 hours per day, 7 days a week on generator power, which is unsustainable and harmful to the vessel. Moreover, Malaysia has currently docked the yacht in a hazardous environment in which toxins such as water pollution and nearby smoke are greatly damaging it. Because Malaysia apparently does not have – or does not want to spend – the necessary funds to properly maintain the vessel while it is prepared for a value-maximizing sale, Malaysia has instead proposed a “fire sale,” in which the yacht is to be sold for a fraction of its true value.

To move for a sale in Malaysia immediately would be a remarkable violation of due process and international legal comity and would call into question the actual ownership of the yacht for any potential buyer. These misguided actions would create a cloud on the Equanimity’s ownership that could easily take years to resolve in several courts around the world.

Tsuey Shan Ho

Account Manager
cid:image001.png@01D37B19.DFA09BC0Tel +44 (0)20 7092 3992

 

How Low will Jho go?

Superyacht: A file picture showing seized
luxury yacht Equanimity being brought to the Boustead Cruise Terminal in
Port Klang on Aug 7. — Reuters

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a railcar but a man who has gone to a university may steal the entire railroad

–- former US President Theodore Roosevelt

FUGITIVE businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, 38, has described Malaysia’s legal proceedings to quickly sell the Equanimity superyacht as a vindictive “sham”.

According to the rotund reprobate, it was a sham because the boat’s ownership was also being contested in the courts of the United States so the ‘hasty” Malaysian admiralty hearing was, at best, iffy.

But what the corpulent conman seemed not to want to concede was that both governments agreed – unequivocally, unarguably and emphatically – that the yacht was not his to roam the oceans with.

They both agreed that the RM1bil boat was bought with monies that were skimmed out of a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Our man Jho has since been keeping a low profile, so low that no one seems to know where the fat fugitive is.

You might say he was distracted: the bulging bandit even left a multi-million dollar private jet back in Singapore and he hadn’t even complained, once, of the uncivil way the authorities just left it out in the sun for over nine months!

In this case, however, the pudgy pirate brought forth his spokespeople to complain about the way the yacht was kept “under the sun” in polluted waters, and with its batteries running 24/7. In short, it was not being treated as a superyacht should have been.

He should be consistent and set forth similar arguments about his private jet. Did I forget to mention that Singapore issued a warrant of arrest for him way back when?

In fairness to our man Jho, he has maintained that he has not stolen anything at all and all the money was his family’s inheritance to begin with.

The problem with that is that at least three countries – the US, Malaysia and Singapore – disagree with its reasoning. Another problem would be his absence from places where people want to ask him hard questions.

It is said that a fool and his money are soon parted. But Fat Boy and Other People’s Money was soon partying and the money seemed endless.

Mario Puzo, the author of the Godfather, put it like this: “A lawyer with a briefcase can steal millions more than a hundred men with guns.”

Let’s face it. He lived, what the Eagles called, Life in the Fast Lane.

He had a private jet and a superyacht.

He had palatial homes all over the world.

He dated Hollywood actresses.

He helped bankroll a Hollywood blockbuster.

He helped bring down a government that had ruled for 61 years, helped bring criminal charges against a former premier and friend, and catalysed the return of a 93 year old man to power.

He may have had more citizenships than Caesar.

And – wonder of wonders – he had no official position in 1 Malaysia Development Bhd. His name must surely resonate in future history books.

Breaking news! Just got word that Fat Boy and his father have been charged by the Attorney General’s Chambers for money laundering offences involving RM1bil, funds that were allegedly used to buy the yacht.

This will make Malaysia the first country to charge our man Jho. Not bad for an Attorney General who was said to “know nothing” of criminal law.

Now we know why they say money launderers are filthy rich.

What will the dodgy deviant say now?

Catch me if you can?

By S. Jayasankaran

Related posts:

https://clips.thestar.com.my/Interactive/EquanimityYacht/EquanimityYacht.mp4 KUALA LUMPUR: Super yacht Equanimity of fugitive financi…
The Bombardier Global 5000 jet parked on the tarmac of  Seletar airport in Singapore PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will have to cough up at…

Opportunities in e-commerce


Talk on trade: (from left) Interbase Resouces Sdn Bhd MD and Lelong.com.my co-founder Richard Tan, Chong and SME Association of Malaysia national deputy president Ong Chee Tat during a panel discussion on Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific, organised by FedEx.
Talk on trade: (from left) Interbase Resouces Sdn Bhd MD and Lelong.com.my co-founder Richard Tan, Chong and SME Association of Malaysia national deputy president Ong Chee Tat during a panel discussion on Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific, organised by FedEx.

 

More SME seen to be embracing technology

WHILE its been a constant lament that local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not embracing digital technology, a new survey seems to suggest otherwise.

A recent FedEx-commissioned study on trends being adopted by SMEs in Asia Pacific (Apac) has revealed a high adoption of new technologies among local SMEs.

According to the study, Malaysia ranks fourth (among nine Apac countries surveyed) in digital platform implementation and third in adopting Industry 4.0 technologies.

Entitled “Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific”, the research revealed that an average of 88% of Malaysian SMEs are adopting digital economy platforms, such as e-commerce, mobile-commerce and social-commerce platforms.

FedEx Malaysia managing director S.C. Chong says it is critical for SMEs to take advantage of technological advancements as a catalyst to enter into new markets, improve customer service support and experience, and provide a more efficient end-to-end customer journey.

“SMEs are the engine of growth and form the backbone of Malaysia’s economy,” he says during a briefing on the survey, last week.

Chong adds that it is encouraging to see SMEs taking the initiative to grow their business through the adoption of new technologies, infrastructure-building, and expansion into international markets.

Citing the survey, he says that 61% of local SMEs are optimistic that the e-commerce platforms will help contribute to increased revenue growth in the next 12 months.

“The study also found that 69% of Malaysian SMEs have incorporated Industry 4.0 technologies into their operations such as mobile payments, automation software and big data / analytics in particular.”

Industrial Revolution 4.0 refers to the paradigm that machines are now able to autonomously adapt and coordinate their tasks to meet human needs.

The survey also shows a significantly high adoption rate of mobile payments among Malaysian SMEs at 90% (higher than the Apac SME average of 73%), with automation software and big data / analytics among the top Industry 4.0 technologies being used by SMEs at 84% and 77% respectively.

In addition, the survey also showed that 78% of respondents agreed that Industry 4.0 technologies have enhanced efficiencies in the supply chain and distribution channels, while helping reduce challenges brought by cross-border payments.

The results of the survey were based on interviews with 4,543 senior executives of SMEs in nine markets in Apac between March and April 2018. The markets included in the research were China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

The interviews were split equally by market with a representative mix of company sizes: micro (one to nine full-time employees), small (10 to 49 full-time employees) and medium (50 to 249 full-time employees).

Each market had an average of 500 respondents.

SME Association of Malaysia national deputy president Ong Chee Tat says SMEs and Industry 4.0 are key components towards the growth of the nation, as Malaysia works towards achieving a high-income economy.

“While technology may have reduced the gap between SMEs and larger industry players, SMEs still face various challenges in the adoption of the latest trends or tools in technology. Most SMEs may find that they lack sufficient finances, knowledge or workforce talent to adopt these new technologies.

“As such, we (the SME Association) are cognisant of the barriers to technology-adoption and continue to guide, empower and support SMEs by providing strategic advice or counsel and initiating networking platforms to facilitate knowledge exchange.”

Ong says that the SME Association is currently looking to set up an SME Academy to help provide training for local start-ups.

“We hope to be able to launch this academy by this year,” he says.

The survey also revealed that 95% of Apac SMEs have made use of digital platforms such as e-commerce (82%), mobile-commerce (72%) or social-commerce (74%) in their business operations.

“In Malaysia, the top social media platforms are Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram,” says Ong.

According to the survey, the top social media platform used in Apac markets is Facebook, with the exception of China (WeChat) and Taiwan (Line).

In comparison, Malaysia has an overall higher adoption rate of e-commerce (90%), mobile-commerce (87%) and social-commerce (86%) compared to other markets in Apac.

Also, the survey says 61% of Malaysian SMEs expressed confidence that the digital economy will help reduce barriers to finding global customers beyond Apac.

Chong says the finding is strongly supported by Malaysia having 146% mobile penetration, 22 million internet users, 18 million active social media users, and seven million online shoppers, leading to Malaysia ranking 31st among the most tech-ready countries around the world.

Meanwhile, Interbase Resouces Sdn Bhd managing director and Lelong.com.my co-founder Richard Tan says that by educating SMEs and raising their awareness on the digital economy, there will be a rise in brick-and-mortar SMEs having an online presence to augment and complement their business.

“At Lelong.my, our integrated online platform which comes with services such as e-payment solutions and digital storefronts, has allowed us to extend our reach to capture the younger generation of increasingly digital savvy customers and merchants.

“As an online retail platform, we continuously evolve and transform ourselves to ensure that we fully understand the consumer journey and experiences to make it a seamless, pleasant one.”

He also says that the rise in digital platforms will not result in brick-and-mortar outlets becoming obsolete.

“I believe they will complement each other,” he says, adding that this is why it’s important for companies to have both a physical and online presence.

“I might see a product at a store somewhere, but may decide to purchase the item off of the company’s website. On the flipside, I might see something online that I might like, but would want to physically see it first, before deciding to buy.”

Tan emphasises that it is in a situation like this that SMEs need to have a presence online.

“You need to have your content displayed on the Internet. If people can’t find your product on the web, they may just decide not to buy it at all. That’s the behaviour of the new group of consumers today.

“You have to digitize your content.”

Chong admits that having products and services accessible via the web nowadays is a given.

“However, there are still products and services that you can’t get online. But it’s important to be able to have your product on the web, so that people can learn about it and either buy it or choose to view it physically at your store.”

Growth opportunities

In conjunction with the recent “Take E-Commerce to the Next Level” conference by DHL Express Malaysia, the logistics firm said in a statement last week that there is great potential for Malaysian SMEs to grow their business overseas through e-commerce.

“By 2020, it is expected that one out of five e-commerce dollars will be generated through cross-border trade. Business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce has grown at a faster pace than most other industry sectors in recent years, with premium cross-border shipments growing from 10% to more than 20% of the volumes of DHL Express.

“This is further boosted by various incentives the government has provided to ensure that the local e-commerce sector has the potential to lift Malaysia’s total trade to RM2 trillion this year.”

Over 100 local SMEs attended the conference.

Its speakers included those from Amazon Global Selling, Payoneer, Everpeaks, Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC) and Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade), who shared their insights on the importance of logistics, digital marketing, payment options and sales methodologies as part of the entire B2C ecosystem.

“These takeaways are meant to better equip local SMEs to meet the increasing demand of customers who seek faster fulfilment and more variety at cost-effective prices,” says DHL Express.
In the same statement, e-commerce conglomerate Amazon encouraged more Malaysian SMEs to expand their business by tapping Amazon’s global reach.

Amazon Singapore’s Amazon global selling head Gijae Seong says: “South-East Asia has quickly grown to be one of the most important regions for Amazon Global Selling.

“In the US alone, Amazon has over 150 million monthly unique visitors. We hope that more local SMEs will consider expanding their business globally on Amazon in the future.”

In addressing the challenges of SMEs to expand its presence on a global level, Matrade transformation and digital trade division director Noraslan Hadi Abdul Kadir points out that Matrade is Malaysia’s national trade promotion agency, and therefore has the mandate to promote local SMEs overseas.

“Our eTRADE Programme offers financial incentive valued at RM5,000 per company, which can be utilised to partially cover the on-boarding cost to be listed on world’s renowned e-Commerce platforms the likes of Amazon.com.

“We hope more SMEs can capitalise on the programme to kick-start their cross-border e-commerce business.”

Boost to property sector

The e-commerce boom is also set to be a boost to the local property market, with the industrial sub-sector being its biggest beneficiary.

According to the Valuation and Property Services Department’s (JPPH) Property Market Report 2017, the industrial sub-sector, though contributed the least to the overall property market last year , plays a significant role generating investments and employment opportunities.

“As Malaysia embraces Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the digital economy, a different ball game is expected of the industrial property sub-sector,” it says.

One initiative that is expected to support the sector’s performance, says JPPH, is the setting up of a Special Border Economic Zone in Bukit Kayu Hitam, which will be the new attraction for both domestic and foreign investors on the northern zone of Malaysia.

“Another is the establishment of a Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ), which will see KLIA as the regional gateway. The first phase of DFTZ is foreseen to have 1,500 small and medium enterprises participate in the digital economy and is expected to attract RM700mil worth of investment and create 2,500 job opportunities.

“On the same note, Cyberjaya will be transformed into a global technology hub and a smart city.”

In November, CIMB Research in a report said the industrial segment has a strong growth trajectory through acquisitions and organic growth, given the tight industrial space supply.

“Demand for new high-quality industrial assets will transform the segment, which has led to several new mega-distribution centres that carry high price tags as retailers start turning to logistics.

“Notably, UK-based retailer Marks & Spencer is building a 900,000-sq-ft distribution centre with one million products processing capability per day and will consolidate its 110 warehouses into just four.”

The sector is also expected to be bolstered by the growth of the e-commerce segment.

The growth in e-commerce, which in turn is spurring the online retailers sector, will lead to demand for larger warehouse spaces.

According to JPPH’s Property Market Report 2017, the industrial property sub-sector recorded 5,725 transactions worth RM11.64bil in 017.

“Compared with last year, the market volume increased by a marginal 2.1% but value declined by 3.1%. Most states recorded contractions in market activity but the commendable growth in Selangor and Johor at 19.5% and 9.5% respectively helped support the overall marginal growth.

“These two states accounted for 34.2% and 14% of the total market activity respectively. By type, vacant plots formed 31% of the total transactions, followed by terraced factory with 28.7% market share.”

JPPH says the industrial overhang remained minimal though the volume kept growing since 2016.

“There were 999 units worth RM1.51bil in 2017, showing an increase of 11.4% and 27.1% in volume and value respectively. Johor also took the lead in the industrial overhang with 40.7% (407 units) of the national total.”

JPPH adds that the industrial development front was less active as shown by the marginal increase of 0.4% in completion to record 1,851 units, whilst starts and new planned supply decreased by 20.7% and 34.3% respectively to 850 units and 710 units.

“As at year-end, there were 113,173 existing industrial units, with another 5,675 units in the incoming supply and 7,513 units in the planned supply.

“Prices of industrial property were stable across the board. One and a-half storey semi-detached factories in the Petaling District fetched between RM4.1mil to RM5.7mil. In Johor Bahru, similar factories in Taman Perindustrian Cemerlang ranged from RM2.3mil to RM2.7mil.”

As for the other property sub-sectors, the residential property market recorded 194,684 transactions worth RM68.47bil in 2017, which were 4.1% lower in volume compared with 2016, but they increased by a marginal 4.4% in value.

By price range, demand continued to be in the RM200,000 and below price points, accounting for nearly 45% of the residential market volume.

Last year saw 77,570 units of new launches, higher than those recorded in 2015 (58,411 units) and 2016 (52,713 units).

Kuala Lumpur recorded the highest number of launches in the country with more than 22,000 units. Its sales performance was at a low 19.5%, followed by Selangor with 13,522 units and Johor, 7,926 units.

The commercial property segment, meanwhile, continued to decline but at a modest rate, says JPPH. There were 22,162 transactions recorded worth RM25.44bil in 2017, down by 6.7% in volume and 29.2% in value compared with 2016.

The retail sub-segment’s performance was stable at 81.3% in 2017 compared with 81.4% in 2016, recording an annual take-up of more than 6.78 million sq ft.

Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor and Penang saw a significant take-up rate as their newly completed shopping complexes secured commendable occupancy.

Johor was leading with nearly 2.82 million sq ft followed by Selangor (1.17 million sq ft), Kuala Lumpur (1.01 million sq ft) and Penang (778,833 sq ft).

Credit: Eugene Mahalingam Star SMEBIZ

Related:

Focused approach to supporting startups – SMEBiz

 

Providing SMEs with an alternative – SMEBiz 

Leverage technology for a leg up

Malaysia needs more childcare & daycare centres


https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/08/13/malaysia-needs-more-childcare-centres-dpm-we-are-also-in-dire-need-of-qualified-workers-to-ensure-sa/

PUTRAJAYA: There is a dire need for more qualified childcare workers and registered childcare centres in the country, says Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that these shortages could adversely affect the safety and quality of care for Malaysian children.

“Data from the Welfare Department showed that up to June this year, the number of childcare workers looking after children four years and below is 16,873.

“Out of this, only 3,173 of them have the minimum qualification of a childcare course,” said Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister.
She was speaking at the launch of the National Childcare Centre Day 2018 themed “Equality” at the IOI City Mall here yesterday.

Dr Wan Azizah added that the rest of childcare workers in the country, all 13,700 or 80.19% of them, did not have the minimum qualification for the job.

She said the lack of qualified childcare workers contributed to the lack of registered childcare centres in the country.

“Calculations based on a census done by Malaysian Statistics Department showed that we need to have 38,333 registered childcare centres.

“However, the actual number at present is only 4,302,” she said.

Dr Wan Azizah said her ministry took a serious view on the safety of children at childcare centres and at the homes of childcare providers.

“We are looking at the need to improve on the Child Care Centre Act and regulations on childcare centres to fit the current needs and situation,” she said.

She added that her ministry was also studying how to utilise information and communication technology to be included in the childcare system in the country. The Star

 

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