Billion Dollar Whale Book Summary By Tom Wright and Bradley Hope

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Billion Dollar Whale (2018) is the true story of a Malaysian social climber called Jho Low and his daring act of fraud against a national investment fund.

Written by two of America’s top investigative journalists, it gives readers a peek into the hidden world of corrupt dealings that stretch across continents.

This book is not only an absorbing account of Low's scams; it's also a testament to the power of investigation and journalistic courage.

Through painstaking positing research relying on multiple sources and interviews, we are able to get a glimpse into a labyrinthine criminal enterprise far beyond what was initially believed possible.

By reading this gripping narrative, readers gain insights into one man's cunning ambition with global reach and consequences.

Billion Dollar Whale Book

Book Name: Billion Dollar Whale (The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World)

Author(s): Tom Wright and Bradley Hope

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 30 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

The author of the highly acclaimed book, The Billion Dollar Whale is Tom Wright.

Tom is a highly respected Wall Street Journal reporter who has made his mark in the journalism world with in-depth coverage on topics like the death of Osama bin Laden and the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh.

Above all, his reporting from Malaysia won him the 2016 Journalist of the Year by the Society of Publishers in Asia - a testament to his unparalleled dedication and outstanding writing skills.

How A Midsize Malaysian Schoolboy Perfected The Art Of Deception And Pulled Off The Biggest Heist Of The Century

Art Of Deception

The Billion Dollar Whale tells the unbelievable true story of a Malaysian fraudster.

Jho Low, a mild-mannered 26-year-old, set out to gain access to the world’s wealthiest families by attending America’s oldest business school, Wharton.

What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary.

Low leveraged his contacts with politicians, fixers, and sheiks to gain control of state investment funds and execute high-wire financial deals.

In one year after the great crash of 2008, he successfully executed the largest heist of the century worth billions!

Throughout this journey you’ll learn how he perfected the art of deception as a schoolboy, why Leonardo DiCaprio couldn’t reject his offer to fund his movie and ultimately how his scheme toppled one of Asia’s longest-serving ruling parties.

This is a true story so incredible you won’t be able to stop reading until you find out what happens!

The Shady Rise Of Jho Low: How An Obscure Kid From Malaysia Became A Master Of Financial Fraud

When Jho Low arrived at Harrow School in 1998, he quickly became aware that most of his classmates were significantly wealthier than him.

In order to keep up with the financial demands of attending the renowned private school, Low had to find ways to appear wealthy.

He began to learn the art of deception early on in order to maintain a sense of prestige among his peers.

Low’s first ruse was during a visit from some of his new school friends.

He rented a local billionaire’s home and yacht and replaced images around the house with those of his own family – pretending that he too was born into great wealth.

His peers began referring to him as the “prince of Malaysia” which only served to inflate their idealistic view even further.

In his final year at Harrow, Low bluffed his way into an exclusive London club using a note written on Brunei’s embassy letterhead and continued to party with soccer players and models.

He also cultivated friendships with Riza Aziz, stepson of Malaysia’s defense minister, who taught him how kickbacks worked.

Jho Low’S Path To Greatness: From Gambling With The Elite To Orchestrating An Epic Heist

Jho Low had a knack for cultivating powerful friendships that could potentially benefit him.

His ambitious and often calculating approach led him to the Gulf States, starting in the United Arab Emirates.

This journey began when he connected with a wealthy Kuwaiti businessman’s son, Hamad al-Wazzan on his campus at Wharton School.

Low didn’t just let Wazzan introduce him to the right people – he was strategic about it.

He hosted lavish parties with expensive drinks, invited only people of influence who could further his cause, and blew through hundreds of thousands of dollars while gambling in order to make a lasting impression that he had money to burn.

Eventually this canny cultivation led him to Yousef al-Otaiba, a policy advisor and close friend to the crown prince of UAE.

The two men having many things in common: ambition and lack of real business experience which formed an instant connection as they talked over lunch at an expensive fish restaurant overlooking Persian Gulf by the luxurious Emirates Palace Hotel.

Little did they know this connection will promise to begin one of the greatest heists in history.

From Job Seeker To Global Connector: How Jho Low Leveraged Connections In The Emirates To Broker Deals And Build His Political Influence

Jho Low

Jho Low’s hopes of achieving success as an entrepreneur in Malaysia floundered when he reached out to potential partners but was met with no success.

That all changed after he connected with an important contact in the Gulf, Otaiba.

Knowing that Otaiba was closely connected to the royal family, Low requested help and his prayers were answered when Otaiba turned to Khaldoon Khalifa al-Mubarak, who was director of Mubadala – a state-owned investment company or sovereign wealth fund established in 2002 and controlled by $3.5 billion at the time Low met him.

Low took advantage of this opportunity and leveraged his contacts to set up a $500 million deal between Khazanah and Iskandar, a “special economic zone” near the Malaysian-Singaporean border designed to foster investment.

In doing this, Low put himself on the map as a capable deal maker in Malaysia which earned him praise from Najib Razak – an ambitious Malaysian politician that Low had befriended previously.

Not only did connecting with his contacts in the Gulf grant him access to new deals; it also provided him with a powerful ally within Malaysia – something invaluable for tackling global deals.

Thanks to these shrewd decisions, Jho Low transformed himself from being almost unknown into being one of the leading players on the global stage.

Jho Low Was Saved By Lottery When Malaysia’S People’S Justice Party Made A Last-Minute Surge In The Electoral Polls

Billion Dollar Whale tells the story of Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, who had a plan to become a major player in Malaysian politics by proposing the creation of a sovereign wealth fund.

He’d secured an “in” with Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, the ruler of Terengganu and his proposed fund needed cash; however, despite claims from Tim Leissner about how Goldman Sachs could help, Sultan Mizan pulled out before it could come to fruition.

Luck was on Jho Low’s side though as 2008 brought an unexpected political upset when Malaysians came forward to vote in droves to support the center-left People’s Justice Party.

This put UMNO, a party which had held onto power since emancipation, on edge and desperate for funds to regain its place in society – cue Jho Low.

As Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stepped down and Najib Razak took over his place he saw an opportunity and gambled it on one man only: Jho Low.

After some negotiation he agreed to fund his original idea for a sovereign wealth fund and became the Director of it.

All in all, thanks to a major political shift and some luck thrown into the mix, this surprise outcome gave Jho Low access Malaysia’s prime minister’s ear and create himself an empire.

How Low Used 1Mdb To Commit The Greatest Heist In Malaysian History

When Jho Low became involved with Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the aim was to modernize Malaysia, restore UMNO’s credibility and catch up with the “Asian Tigers”.

Both of these projects would require money and it soon became clear that in order to make this happen, Low himself had to be involved as he was seen as the only credible source of investment.

Shortly after taking office, Najib introduced 1MDB – a sovereign wealth fund with $1.4 billion bonds to its name of which he was the official chairperson.

It seemed like a win-win deal for everyone involved and the aim was for 1MDB to provide funding for projects that would benefit Malaysians from all backgrounds, yet unbeknownst to Najib and any other officials, Low had begun plotting to shake down 1MDB’s funds within months of its creation.

In August 2009, Low rented out a luxury yacht which he then pretended belonged to an important Saudi royal Prince Turki Bin Abdullah in order secure an almost too-good-to-be-true deal between PetroSaudi International – an organization supposedly established for oil drilling in reality simply a front for Turki’s family name – and 1MDB.

It was on this trip where Turki presented Najib with a partnership proposal which promised $2.5 billion worth of oil deposits in Argentina and Turkmenistan in exchange for $1 billion cash from 1MDB – it is believed this is when Low’s mission truly began as he saw the potential opportunity that wealth now being generated by 1MDB could give him and his associates over Malaysia.

Low Exploited Weak Regulation To Pull Off A Multi-Million Dollar Heist

Million Dollar Heist

Low Taek Jho managed to pull off his heist with the help of a fragile banking system and experts who agreed to whatever he asked.

It started when Low went to BSI Bank in Geneva, Switzerland, trying to take a cut of the $1 billion payment coming from Malaysia.

Being an unofficial head honcho didn’t matter – the real-world banking works on a self-policing basis: if one refuses to service you, another will likely be more than willing as long as it’s profitable.

In this case, that institution was JP Morgan Suisse.

Next, Low had to find someone to validate PetroSaudi’s oil assets worth $2.5 billion so he hired Edward Morse for a whopping $100,000 and got him confirm claims about phantom oil contracts located in remote parts of Central Asia that almost nobody else knew about – or even contested since they were situated under the Caspian Sea!

What followed was both remarkable and stunningly simple: 1MDB quickly wired $1 billion into the joint venture account – an agreement which usually takes at least a year to complete!

But again, Low took advantage of everyone’s ignorance by labeling it as repayment for a ‘loan’ no one seemed interested in checking if it even existed or not – and out of thin air appeared $700 million wired directly his own personal accounts!

How Jho Low Turned Illicit Money Into An Empire Of Influence

Jho Low quickly realized that if he wanted to build an empire of influence in the United States, he would need to get people’s attention— and what better way than throwing money around? Between October 2009 and 2010, he spent an estimated $85 million on extravagant parties, private jet trips to Vegas, birthday celebrations with caged lions and tigers, sending actresses expensive bottles of champagne, huge nightclub bills and more.

Low knew people were talking about him.

Stories of his wild spending and celebrity-studded events spread far and wide, drawing celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Usher and OT Genasis into their orbit.

By buying their alliances with lavish gifts and experiences Low was able to strengthen his network in the US— building a powerful empire of influence.

And not just for himself.

He saw potential business opportunities for his Malaysian associates as well— inviting them into his inner circle where they could meet Hollywood’s elite.

With Low calling the shots behind the scenes it seemed like there was no stopping him – until the US Department of Justice got involved…

How A Malaysian Playboy Conned His Way Into Hollywood And Leonardo Dicaprio’S Good Books

When Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio first met Low in 2010, he never expected that one day the Malaysian financier would agree to finance his vision for the movie adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir The Wolf of Wall Street.

But Low did just that, securing DiCaprio’s full creative freedom over the R-rated film with startup production company Red Granite by footing the bill.

In April 2011, Low made good on his promise and wired a massive $1.17 million to begin funding production.

He then unloaded an extra three million dollars in funds to throw an extravagant announcement party in Cannes, just as the famed film festival began getting underway.

Hip hop sensation Kanye West was hired to perform at the bash and Belfort himself was flown in for the occasion.

From that moment on it was clear: In Hollywood showbiz circles, ‘Low’ had arrived – and everyone had taken notice.

Jho Low’S Stingy End: From Abusing Sovereign Wealth Funds To Emerging Fraudster And Back Again

Sovereign Wealth

The mastermind behind the infamous 1MDB scandal, Jho Low, was almost getting away with his devious plans until a disgruntled insider decided to blow the lid off of it all.

Xavier Justo, a former director of PetroSaudi, had warned that he would make public documents detailing Low’s heist with 1MDB if he wasn’t paid for his role in it.

Low ignored him and Justo decided to take matters into his own hands.

He reached out to British investigative reporter Clare Rewcastle-Brown for assistance and offered her evidence against Low for $2 million.

With help from the owner of Edge Magazine, Tong Kooi Ong, this sum was eventually raised and published by Brown as “The Heist of a Century.”

Along with an exclusive in The New York Times which detailed how Low had acted as an unofficial agent for Najib Razak (Malaysia’s prime minister at the time), low was finally exposed.

His audacious career as a global fraudster came to an end.

Najib Razak And Jho Low: From Money Laundering To Arrest In A Span Of Three Years

The theft of billions from 1MDB by Jho Low caused a political earthquake in Malaysia.

Low’s actions triggered a civil war in the ruling UMNO party and reformist faction leader, former prime minister Mahathir Muhamed, called for Najib’s resignation and a wide-ranging investigation into the scandal.

Hundreds of thousands expressed their concern about the debts that 1MDB had incurred and would leech funds away from education, social welfare for years to come.

Najib tried to call back Low before he could be questioned by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee but failed.

Fearing an electoral loss due to his unpopularity and accusations of corruption, Najib set off a wave of repression banning yellow shirts as a symbol of the Bersih movement, newspapers were shuttered and whistleblowers imprisoned.

Malaysia elected Pakatan Harapan in 2018 with Najib unable to prevent losses or deceive anyone further and found himself arrested on charges related to 1MDB.

Low fled to Thailand expecting victory but instead was met with an extradition order which forced him to move around China before disappearing completely without trace since then.

The fallout of 1MDB heists caused havoc in Malaysian politics yet despite Najib facing justice Jho Low still remains at large!

Wrap Up

The Billion Dollar Whale book provides a final summary of Jho Low’s scheme to steal billions of dollars.

Low was born into a wealthy family, but his ambition drove him to strive for more.

With the help of well-placed contacts, Low secured an important construction deal, and gained the favor of the future Prime Minister Najib Razak who entrusted him with a billion-dollar investment fund.

Low abused this position of power and used it to funnel millions into his own accounts, enabling him to maintain a luxurious lifestyle.

In the end, the heist was uncovered leading to the downfall of Malaysia’s government.

Unfortunately, due to weak law enforcement and corruption from within, many involved in this heist have escaped with their ill-gotten gains still intact.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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