The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which is currently headed by Donald Trump appointee William Barr, is investigating whether a $100,000 donation made to the president’s political fundraising committee came from one of the central figures in Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption scandal, Jho Low.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the money was donated to the U.S. president’s re-election committee – Trump Victory – in December 2017. The donation was made by Larry Davis whose firm LNS Capital had received $1.5 million from Low in mid-2017.
If Low is found culpable, it will only increase the charges he is facing in the United States. Federal laws forbid non-Americans from directly or indirectly donating to U.S. political action committees or politicians.
Already, Low is wanted in the United States on three counts related to the multi-billion Malaysian scandal. Of the $100,000 that was donated by Davis, Trump Victory retained $5,400 and forwarded the rest to Republican entities.
Per the Wall Street Journal, the investigation being conducted by the DOJ on the source of the funds is related to a broader inquiry over the alleged efforts of Low to have investigations into him with regards to his role in looting Malaysia’s investment fund 1MDB dropped.
The mastermind of the looting scandal that saw $4.5 billion disappear from state coffers is currently believed to be hiding in China.
In January, the Washington Post reported that ex-Fugees rapper Pras and Donald Trump friend Elliott Broidy were involved in these investigation-suppression efforts. Per the report, Pras helped set up accounts necessary for making payments to finance the lobbying efforts to quash the investigation. The rapper hired Broidy to lobby the Trump administration on the matter as well.
In the U.S., the 1MDB scandal has ensnared personalities and institutions outside the political sphere. Recently, the U.S. Federal Reserve permanently banned former Goldman Sachs chairman for South East Asia Tim Leissner from working in the banking industry.
Earlier in the year Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon apologized for the bank’s and Leissner’s role, per the BBC:
“It is very clear that the people of Malaysia were defrauded by many individuals. For Leissner’s role in that fraud, we apologise to the Malaysian people.”
Between 2012 and 2013, Goldman Sachs was instrumental in raising money for 1MDB. At the time, the bank underwrote bonds over $6 billion, earning approximately $600 million. This is because unlike other sovereign wealth funds, 1MDB borrowed money for its projects rather than relying on savings. Goldman Sachs now faces criminal charges in Malaysia alongside its former executives.
According to the Justice Department, around $4.5 billion was looted from the sovereign wealth fund between 2009 and 2014. Most of the funds were embezzled and allegedly used to purchase luxury items and to finance Hollywood films.
As an example, Low helped Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio get funding for the “Wolf of Wall Street” movie. Low gifted DiCaprio paintings and gambling chips as well. The Hollywood actor enjoyed a close relationship with Low and prosecutors are now interested in the insights he can offer and have roped him in as a federal witness.
Other U.S. celebrities who have been linked with Low include socialite Paris Hilton and supermodel model Miranda Kerr, according to Quartz.