Payments made to three PR firms and a digital search firm.
The United States government filings have revealed that Jho Low’s legal team has spent USD$1.1 million (RM4.6 million) to help improve his reputation over the past seven months.
In a report recently published in the New York Times (NYT), the services offered to Low include providing round-the-clock crisis public relations (PR) response, developing the Internet search results as well as building a website with international reports, and legal filings to provide Jho Low’s side of story.
“The campaign on behalf of Jho Low, carried out by two high-powered law firms, is described in filings submitted last month to the Department of Justice (DoJ) under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.
“Legal work done on behalf of foreign clients is exempted from the act’s requirements, but increased scrutiny resulting from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election helped prompt those representing Jho Low to disclose their work under FARA.
“The owner of one public relations firm hired by Jho Low’s legal team, James Haggerty, said in one filing that he believed all of his work fell within the litigation exemption to FARA. But Haggerty, who is also a lawyer, wrote that he registered anyway, ‘given the ambiguity in the law and differing interpretations.”
“Haggerty and others have increased their efforts to burnish Jho Low’s image as prosecutors have ramped up an investigation into the disappearance of more than USD$2.7 billion from a Malaysian state investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB,” it said.
NYT quoted Haggerty saying in the filing to the DoJ that his firm was also paid “to ensure the client is not prejudged in public in a manner that affects his legal rights in jurisdictions across the globe”.
The newspaper reported that the two high-powered US law firms involved in Low’s defence, Kobre & Kim and Schillings International made payments to three public relation firms and a digital search firm as was disclosed in the FARA fillings.
The lawyers said the money did not come directly from Low, though they did not provide details about its source, it added.
“Kobre & Kim, in its filing, indicated that it had disbursed more than USD$818,000 to four firms for work on Jho Low’s behalf. The majority of that roughly USD$544,000 (RM2.28 billion) went to Haggerty’s public relations firm, PRCG Haggerty.
PRCG Haggerty’s services reportedly included engaging “Australian partners” to provide material to news organisations Down Under and Asia covering the 1MDB scandal.
“This law firm also paid two other PR firms, namely the London-based PHA Group, and Marathon Strategies in New York, which was founded by a Democratic campaign operative who help to conduct Hilary Clinton’s communications team during her presidential campaign in 2008.
“The filing also revealed that a digital search and analytics firm called Five Blocks, based in New York, has so far been paid USD$210,000 to provide ‘digital reputation management’ for Jho Low. On its site, Five Blocks describes itself as serving ‘high-profile individuals who want to build, promote and defend their reputations.”
“Schillings, in its filing, said that it had received USD$349,000 as part of its work on the public relations effort for Jho Low,” it said.