Do you know what was the most talked about book in October 2018 edition of Kindle fan gathering at Starbucks Reserve at the Gardens, Midvalley?

 

Yes, you got it right, it’s the hottest bok in the town, Billion Dollar Whale, depicting the rise and fall of our infamous hero, Jho Low and the Giga-scandal 1MDB, who is now believed to be hidden in China, running away from US, Malaysia authority who wants to put him under arrest.

 

The demand for the book is so huge that a lot of people couldn’t get it immediately after it was published on 18 September 2018. The last time I check, MPH waiting time is 3 weeks. A Kindle fan said that she couldn’t wait, so she just ordered it from Amazon US and had it to ship to Malaysia.

But then, you still have to wait for the book to go from US to Malaysia which will take 1 week to 4 weeks, depending on how much you want to pay for the shipping fees.

( For those who also couldn’t wait, we recommend that you get a Kindle from us, we have ready stocks. You can get the book cheaper and faster that way!)

What can you expect from the book?

Contrary to many expectations, this book has less to do with Najib and Rosmah, our ex-premier couple, more to do with Jho Low and the failure of Wall Streets in the saga of 1MDB. The book depicts young Jho Low life, how did he make connection while he was at Wharton Business School, how he tricked the people in the corridors of power in Abu Dhabi into believing that he is the Prince of Malaysia ( he wasn’t, and likely will never be), how he convinced Najib’s stepson Reza that he had the key to Middle East funding ( while he didn’t), the tricks he used to siphon huge amount of money out of 1MDB funds, and how he spent the stolen money on apartments, movies, arts, lavish lifestyles and jewelries to beautiful women around the world ( Rosmah included) while having a girlfriend back home.

The book also covers how Wall Street and banking system, eager to make themselves rich, turned a blind eye to this Heist of the Century. They allowed questionable transfers to go through all in the name of profits, despite being prohibited by banking regulation from doing so ( anti-money laundering acts).  In fact one of the central questions asked by the authors is how can the whole banking world allowed this to happen, right after the 2008 world economy crisis and the Occupy WallStreet movement; did we not learn enough from the past crisis? Like almost any other good questions, this one most likely has no answer, due to that human ingenuity is impossible for regulation to keep up.

Najib, on the other hand, is being protrayed in the book as someone who was rather clueless about the real doings of Jho Low. Whether he was willfully ignorant or not, we don’t know. He didn’t seem to care how much Jho Low stole for himself, and how big the 1MDB hole was; all he cared was to stay in power. Believing that cash is King, Najib would turn to Jho Low from time to time to finance his political campaign. So when the infamous 26 Billion scandal broke out, when Najib said that “the fund was not for his personal use”, there are some truths to that statement– the fund was meant as an emergency plan if and when BN failed to retain power in 13th General Election. But BN did win for 13th GE, and thus Najib transferred the money back to Jho Low’s offshore account afterwards.

Najid really did not use the RM 26 Billion fund for personal reasons.

What about Rosmah? We all know what a big spender Rosmah was ( despite being only a housewife), and the book confirms this. From time to time, Jho Low would have to send millions USD of jewelries and bags to her in order to stay in her good books. I have no idea how the truly rich people do their shopping before this; for they just simply don’t do shopping like the rest of the ordinary mortals do. High earners go to Hermes shop and then pinpoint the items they want to buy, but the truly rich people, like Rosmah, go to Hermes shop, pinpoint the few items they don’t want to buy, and then buy all the rest. That is if they are in the mood of buying something cheap. If they want to buy truly rare and expensive things, they don’t go to the shop; they ask the shop representatives to fly in from Paris or New York and present the spoils in the comfort of their own home.

Like any scams, 1MDB eventually collapsed, after Jho Low’s high profile activities caught the enforcement’s attention, and when the whole 1MDB hole became just too big to fill. The book ends with the scenes after the historic 509 election when BN was swiped away from power. This time, Najib had no emergency plan, was he too comfortable with the chances of winning ( after enlisting the help of PAS), or was he running out of funds to use, since 1MDB wasn’t his cashcow anymore? We don’t know. What we know was that neither Najib, nor Rosmah, nor Jho Low saw this coming. In fact Jho Low was even preparing to celebrate victory by preparing a huge party at his his luxurious mega-yacht in the eve of the election, truly believing that Pakatan Harapan didn’t stand a chance of winning. In the aftermath of 509 election, the stunned Jho Low quickly disappeared, and until today, no one really knows his whereabouts.

A lot of the information in the book was already on public domain prior to this. But it’s nice that the authors put everything together neatly in a book, so that one can read in a setting and get a clearer picture of the whole scandal. Even though I knew 1MDB since 2012, and even though the information is not new, I could still feel my blood boiling when the authors describe one heist after another. How can the Malaysians put up with such nonsense for so long? How can we– I mean the ordinary folks and even the ruling party– allow a leader to remain on the seat despite knowing the full scale of the corruption?

Perhaps this is the question that we as Malaysians should ask ourselves. Unlike a lot of people who want to crucify Najib and Rosmah straightaway, I am more sympathetic towards them. Without a system that is abetting and hiding their crimes all the time, it’s hard to imagine how they can get to this stage. So in this sense we can also view that the duo as the victims of the whole political system. Saying so is not to absolve their crimes, but is to realize that there are a lot of works that need to be done, in order to forestall 1MDB 2 from ever happening again.

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