Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

An epic true tale of Jho Low, the central character of this book, who orchestrated the biggest financial heist of the century, is revealed by authors Tom Wright and Bradley Hope.

I am halfway reading this book and I am gripped by how Jho Low manipulated the financial levers for his own gain, cheating an entire nation of money, funnelling public funds to his myriad of secret off-shore accounts and enriching himself and his people around him along the way, all at the same time without getting caught.

For a while after the book was published, I was hesitant in picking up this book to get the full picture of how Jho Low funnelled funds for his own gains. I remembered reading news articles about 1MDB and the scandal surrounding then prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak on how he misappropriated vast sums of money for his own gain, through an intermediary, the mysterious figure, Jho Low.

At that time, I had only a vague notion on how the deed was done based on a scattering of evidence and ongoing investigations of financial fraud relating to the 1MDB. Even then, the pulling the veil behind the fraud was partial at best, and at the end I only managed to have vague understanding on how the deed was done. I am not well versed in how the financial world works, especially the seedy underbelly of sovereign wealth funds, off-shore accounts, secret banking rules and such. So to get a full picture of what happened was difficult to come by. After the whole saga died down and the world moved on, I became less interested in the scandal.

It was not until I got hold of this book only recently at a discount that I finally seem to understand, in minute detail, and in chronological order how Jho Low rose up the ranks of being a nobody to a financial elite, manipulating governments, celebrities and banks for his own selfish gains. I am only half way through the book, and already I have a very clear picture of who Jho Low truly is. What impresses me most about the book is how they managed to follow the money trail clearly and explained it in this book for a lay person like me to understand. The book avoids technical financial jargon and instead focuses on how money flows through the shadowy banking system and the rationale on why Jho Low did it in a particular way. The book is not interested in telling readers the technical aspects of opening shell companies, or the nuances of taxation laws in different countries, or dry anti money-laundering laws and compliance’s regulations of banks and financial institutions complicit in the scandal. Instead, the book focuses on the money and following the trail, as it gets transferred from one entity to another, before reaching Jho Low and his close associates.

I have a feeling that this book, once I completed reading it, will most likely be part of my Goodreads ‘All-time-favourites’ bookshelf. This book may be the fifth book in 2020 to earn the accolade.

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