Jee’s #bookreview of #BillionDollarWhale by #TomWright & #BradleyHope #HachetteBooks #nonfiction #Malaysia


Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope

Publisher: Hachette Books

Verdict: 5/5

In a nutshell (Amazon):

In 2009, with the dust yet to settle on the financial crisis, a mild-mannered Wharton grad set in motion a fraud of unprecedented gall and magnitude–one that would come to symbolize the next great threat to the global financial system. The scandal is known as 1MDB, and the man behind it, Jho Low, is a figure so preposterous he might seem made up.

“An epic tale of white-collar crime on a global scale” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), Billion Dollar Whale reveals how this young social climber pulled off one of the biggest heists in history. Over a half decade, Low siphoned billions from an investment fund–right under the nose of the global financial industry. Low used the money to finance elections, purchase luxury real estate, throw champagne-drenched parties, and even to finance Hollywood films like The Wolf of Wall Street.

Federal agents who helped unravel Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme say the 1MDB affair will become the textbook case of financial fraud in the modern age–and its fallout is already being credited for taking down the prime minister of Malaysia. With his yacht and private jet reportedly seized by authorities and facing money-laundering charges in Malaysia, an Interpol red notice, and an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice Investigation, Low has become an international fugitive.

Billion Dollar Whale will join the ranks of Liar’s Poker, Den of Thieves, and Bad Bloodas a classic harrowing parable of the financial world, hubris, and greed.

My thoughts:

“Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king,”

Bob Dylan, in Sweetheart Like You.

(Billion Dollar Whale)

This book was well-written and thoroughly researched, leaving no stones unturned. Imagine combining ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ into one book.

In Billion Dollar *Whale, we’d learn about the financial exploits of Low Taek Jho, or more known as Jho Low, a businessman accused of stealing hundreds of millions from Malaysian state investment vehicle 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He was also considered the mastermind behind this entire financial fraud. Being a swift swindler that he is, he nabbed the first $700 million of about $7 billion he stole from 1MDB, an investment fund of the Malaysian government, from 2009 to 2015.

Jho Low is no stranger to us all, Malaysians, and among the rich and famous in the US. During the halcyon days of his wealth, he had hung out with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio (a guest in most of his parties), Paris Hilton (his celebrity crush), Jamie Foxx (who hosted a number of his parties), Miranda Kerr (rumored to have dated him), even Kate Upton and Martin Scorsese.

Low had always wanted to have more than he already had. He was already rich, ‘with a family wealth in the millions’. His hunger for power and prestige, propelled him to work hard in building powerful and influential contacts, learning the ropes, loopholes and shortcuts of the industry, and most of all, putting himself in the company of the rich and famous.

When he gained the protection of the former Malaysia Prime Minister, Najib Razak  (whose bank account was also (allegedly) flowing with the money Low stole), Low felt untouchable. (Najib recently pleaded not guilty to the $681 million which was deposited into his account). USD $681 MILLION!

With the funds that Low stole from 1MDB, he mindlessly spent it on properties and paintings, luxurious yachts, lavish parties and millions of euros just on champagnes, and financing Hollywood films. Between May and September 2013, Low had bought $137 million in art, and by the end of the year, he possessed art worth an estimated $330 million!

Another jet-setter commented that Low was the biggest spender he has ever met in his life. “You could be having lunch in a restaurant in London and he’ll say who wants to have dinner in New York. Then he’d charter a jet and before you know it, you’re having dinner with the best wine of your life in Manhattan. Nothing was out of reach.”

Even Jordan Belfort (whom DiCaprio played in Wolf of Wall Street) remarked, “This is a fucking scam – anybody who does this has stolen money.” “You wouldn’t spend money you worked for like that.”

Here are some excerpts from the book:

“The 1MDB fund was supposed to invest in green energy and tourism to create high-quality jobs for all Malaysians, whether of Malay, Indian, or Chinese heritage, hence the slogan “1Malaysia.” The fund, Low promised the prime minister, would suck in money from the Middle East and borrow more from global markets. But he had another selling point, one which Najib, who was ambitious, found extremely attractive: Why not also use the fund as a political-financing vehicle? Profits from 1MDB would fill a war chest that Najib could use to pay off political supporters and voters, restoring UMNO’s popularity, Low promised.”

“He knew that transactions between government attracted less than scrutiny from auditors and banks, and so he had set about building high-level connections in Malaysia, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. He understood that once money was sent into an anonymous offshore account, it was difficult to trace, and he’d learned how to layer transactions – sending case around in a whirl between shell companies. And to keep everything flowing, he constantly misrepresented money as investment or loans, giving his scheme a veneer of formality.”

Till today, Low remains a fugitive.

Jho Low, YOU DESTROYED Malaysia and the many lives of others. You deserve the WORST.

To give you an idea on other luxuries he bought with the money he stole:

A superyacht, named Equanimity, which purportedly belonged to him, costs US$250mil (RM1bil). It is believed to have been bought using the money connected to 1MDB. The Equanimity was successfully brought back to Malaysian shores on Aug 7, 2018.

You can read more about the yacht at WOB

*A ‘whale’ is a high roller, a gambler who consistently wagers large amounts of money.

Shocked? Dumbfounded? Flabbergasted? What do you think of Low? I’m just beyond disgusted!

I urge you to read this if you read non-fiction. This **!! %&$# needs to be brought to justice. This is one whale not worth saving.


21 Comments Add yours

  1. RoseMarie says:

    OMG! What a low-down dirty thief. I hope they catch his ass soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      You’re right about that! 👍

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds very interesting! Great review, Jee! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Darinda! And thanks for always stopping by and commenting ❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jee! This review is masterful! I could feel your passion about how wrong this all is and I feel that way, too. I’m surprised I didn’t know more about this person. I’m definitely adding the book now and am happy you enjoyed it. Happy weekend my friend, xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Awww thank you, Jennifer! That means a lot coming from you! ❤️And thank you for always dropping by, commenting and sharing on Twitter. I really appreciate it!! 😘❤️❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course- ditto to you, Jee! 💗 😘

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Daniela Ark says:

    I think this may be why I mostly read fantasy because I get so frustrated when real life villains get away with things! AWESOME review Jee!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Oh gosh yes I even told my dad not to read this or he’ll get all riled up!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! I’m shocked at what he was able to get away with and that he’s still on the run. I’ve never even heard of this person or book before but will be taking a look soon hopefully. Thanks for reviewing and sharing your thoughts x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Tq so much for stopping by and following and commenting! I really appreciate it! Yes it’s by far one of the best non-fiction I read this year! Hope you’ll get a chance to read it too!


  6. Wow a passionate and detailed review. It’s excellent xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Tq so much! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


  7. Jheelam says:

    This is so sad. Thieves getting accorded by governments while honest people couldn’t secure a bank loan through proper channel. I, too, get riled up while reading state-sponsored laundering/crimes. Thank you so much for this passionate review. Would add this on my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Tq so much for stopping by and commenting! I really appreciate it! Really how you get to read this! A movie of it will be out soon too!


  8. Daniela Ark says:

    Love white-collar crime stories! I was already super intrigued by this book now I MUST read it. As usual, great Review Jee!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Tq so I much Daniela! And thanks for always stopping by and commenting, I really appreciate it 🤗 I really hope you get to read this too!

      Liked by 1 person

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