NEW YORK: A Malaysian entrepreneur on the lam from his home country, who has been charged by the U.S. Justice Department with using government funds to bribe officials, has hired several communications firms, according to Justice Department filings.
The DOJ filed a three-count criminal indictment against Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, for "conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s investment development fund, and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials."
The indictment also named two others, Ng Chong Hwa and Tim Leissner. Leissner has pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as part of the schemes, according to a DOJ statement.
In August, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Malaysian police had filed money laundering charges against Low Taek Jho but had not detained him. He was reportedly traveling between Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China.
Foreign Agents Registration Act documents filed last Wednesday show that Low Taek Jho, via international law firm Kobre & Kim, hired PRCG | Haggerty, a strategic comms agency with offices in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. Initially, PRCG was charging Low Taek Jho a monthly fee of $50,000 for "public relations services in the pending crisis or legal matter." The agreement was for six to 12 months.
Comms services included "strategy and counsel; drafting and editing of messages, media statements and other relevant documents; coordination of relevant background materials; preparation of media spokespeople; general media outreach and interview arrangement; and other associated services."
In a subsequent letter amending the agreement, also included with the FARA registration, PRCG increased its monthly retainer to $100,000 and added a $20,000 per month charge for "overnight Asia-Pacific coverage and strategy and outreach to Asian and Australian media." That work, according to the agreement, is being handled by the firm’s Australian partners.
The documents also show that Low Taek Jho, again via Kobre & Kim, entered into an agreement with Marathon Strategies on August 6. Low Taek Jho, via Kobre & Kim is paying Marathon $35,000 monthly for media relations and $20,000 a month for digital services. The agreement has no specific end date.
Low Taek Jho also hired Five Blocks, which is a New York-based digital reputation management company, according to its website. The agreement started on August 20 and has no end date. Five Blocks is being paid $70,000 a month, along with other monthly fees for meeting goals.
The filings also show that Low Taek Jho, via his law firm, hired London-based The PHA Group Limited for a flat fee of £10,000 along with an administration fee of £200 for what the firm called "normal day-to-day interaction with the media" for an initial period of two weeks.
In a separate FARA filing, Low Taek Jho also hired Schillings, an international reputation and privacy consultancy. According to the document, Schillings is providing "legal and consulting advice arid research in support of the work of public relations advisers with a focus on information related to various ongoing legal proceedings." The filing did not provide details about timing or compensation.
In a statement about the most recent indictments on his personal website, maintained by PRCG, Low Taek Jho has maintained his innocence.
"Let me be clear: I am innocent. With hindsight, I may have done things differently, like any young person, but any mistakes I made do not amount to the sweepingly broad and destructive allegations being made against me," he said, in a letter posted on the website. "There are so many fundamental facts that those seeking to lay blame at my door find convenient to ignore. This website shall bring to light these facts and provide the true story that has been suppressed for so long."
Representatives from PRCG, Marathon Strategies, Five Blocks, PHA Group, and Schillings did not respond to requests for comment.