Citing emails, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said a top Republican fundraiser close to President Donald Trump was negotiating to earn $75 million if the US Department of Justice (DoJ) dropped its investigation into a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal involving 1MDB.
- Jho Low allegedly wanted to pay fee through celebrity friend Pras Michel, not directly to lawyer
- Broidy appeared to have prepared talking points for Najib ahead of his September 2017 visit to White House
- Broidy pleaded guilty in New York pension fraud case
WSJ said in emails dated last year, Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and longstanding Republican donor, and his wife Robin Rosenzweig, an attorney, discuss establishing a consulting contract with Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman embroiled in the 1MDB scandal.
The messages include draft agreements between Rosenzweig’s California law firm and Low’s representative about the possible terms of their business engagement, with one draft proposing a $75 million fee if the DoJ quickly drops its investigation, WSJ said.
Chris Clark of Latham & Watkins LLP, on behalf of Broidy and Rosenzweig, who runs Colfax Law Office Inc, said in a statement that the latter’s law firm was engaged by Pras Michel, a member of the 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees and a friend of Low, “to provide strategic advice as part of a broader team to Mr Low.”
Reportedly, Low did not want to pay Rosenzweig directly but through Michel.
The paper said the emails it had viewed did not show whether Colfax had finalised the terms of agreement with Low.
According to WSJ, the emails also appear to show Broidy prepared talking points for Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak ahead of a September 2017 visit to Washington that included a meeting with Trump.
The talking points reportedly advised Najib to prioritise Malaysia’s support for US efforts to isolate North Korea, while also arguing against the US legal pursuit of the 1MDB matter.
The article noted that WSJ was unable to find any evidence showing that the talking points were ever used or even given to the Prime Minister.
During Najib’s September 2017 visit to the White House, Trump acknowledged Malaysia as an ally in its fight against Islamic militancy, and referring to Najib, Trump said, “He does not do business with North Korea any longer, and we find that to be very important.”
In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct and admitted to making nearly $1 million in gifts to benefit four former top officials in the office that oversees New York state’s pension fund, which made $250 million in investments in Broidy’s firm, WSJ reported. As part of his guilty plea, he agreed to forfeit $18 million to New York state.
Since mid-2016, the DoJ has sought, via civil lawsuits in California, to seize almost $2 billion in assets allegedly bought with the stolen money.
The DoJ alleges Low helped syphon off at least $4.5 billion from 1MDB between 2009 and 2015.
With Asian and Middle Eastern conspirators, he allegedly used the proceeds to buy luxury goods and properties, and fund Hollywood films, among other things.
At least six countries are investigating the scandal, including Singapore and Switzerland.
Seizure of Jho Low’s Yacht
On Feb 28, authorities in Indonesia seized Low’s $250 million superyacht The Equanimity at a port on Bali after a request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A representative for Low said in a written statement in the wake of the seizure that the case was “completely without foundation’’ and that “rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically motivated allegations, the DoJ is continuing with its pattern of global over-reach – all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing.”
It was reported that five out of 34 listed crew members were missing when The Equanimity was seized. Low was also not on board the yacht.
Meanwhile, Indonesian police are extracting digital evidence from the yacht. The process involves extracting information from the vessel’s Automated Identification System (AIS) as part of investigations under Indonesia’s anti-money laundering laws.
Information from the AIS will verify the vessel’s route to Benoa, Bali, where it was seized, and the locations where it had previously sailed.
Malaysia will not seek the return of the yacht, with Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali and Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani both saying that it does not belong to the government.
1MDB chairperson Irwan Serigar Abdullah ignored reporters’ requests for comments on the seizure.