Billion Dollar Whale Book Review

I was waiting at Queenstown Airport in New Zealand for my flight back to Australia.

Typical of me I walked into a book shop in the terminal building and stayed there for the next hour reading randomly selected pages in several interesting business books.

Taking three of them with me to the counter I settled with the little cash I had to buy one of them: Billion Dollar Whale.

& Boy am I glad I did.

If you’re looking for a tantalising non-fiction about the greatest money laundering heist in history naming A-list celebrities and top government officials including Leonardo DiCaprio, Miranda Kerr, and President Obama to name the least; then Billion Dollar Whale is the book for you.

It details the unprecedented gall, scale, and execution of one of the world’s largest money scandals led by Jho Low, an unassuming round figured middle class Chinese Malaysian from Penang.

Receiving an education at the private Harrow School in London and the prestigious Wharton Business school in Pennsylvania, he got to rub shoulders with some of the world’s elite.

Starting young he grew a penchant for high social society settings and formed himself to be the orchestrator of the must attend parties from the young age of 16.

At school he became fast friends with Riza Aziz, the step son of the former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.

Jho used this connection to reach the Prime Minister persuading him to create an investment fund, 1MBD, where he would raise approx. $10billion dollars in funds with the aid of Goldman Sachs and other large and small banking authorities all over the world.

He siphoned off BILLIONs of dollars for a lavish (all expenses paid by the Malaysian taxpayer) lifestyle.

With this money he also funded Najib Razak’s governmental campaign and personal luxuries.

Jho purchased the most expensive real estate in the world having residence in New York, London, LA, and Miami. He bought extravagant luxuries including notable artwork from Sothebys and Christies. He purchased diamonds from Lorraine Schwartz to satiate Najib’s greedy wife Rosmah, and more jewellery for his love interests. And of course cars, planes, yachts, and more.

He would also go onto to use the money to throw ostentatious parties hosting guests the likes of Kanye & Kim Kardashian West, Jamie Foxx, Britney Spears, Victoria Secret Supermodels… the list goes on.

Perhaps most shocking of all, he created Red Granite, the production company which funded the making of The Wolf of Wall Street movie with the lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

What he conducted was a massive undertaking of money laundering for completely selfish means.

The authors Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, both of whom had been journalistically investigating the 1MBD fiasco, are certainly the best people to have written his book. It is layered with such detailed investigative knowledge that it would have taken years to decipher all the evidence.

You would not be criticised if you got lost in the middle of the book (as I did).

The book at times did become difficult to follow half way through as new characters were introduced and oftentimes I forgot who was who and what each persons job and significance was in the story.


What happened was a moral failure of governments, banking institutes, and auditing authorities of epic scale. Those involved should be bought to justice both in civil and criminal suits.

Although this is a fair way to look at it… what can we learn and observe about ourselves individually from this recent true life story?

Although many of us are perturbed by the extent of international corruption and how easily people got away with the 1MDB scandal… we are forgetting that amongst the average working and middle class person there are people who deep down share the same values (or lack of) as Jho and his posey, whom if given the chance, could behave the same way or worse.

I am not saying that the parties involved deserve to go unpunished, not at all.

I simply aim to assert that the only thing we have control over is our own actions, our core values, and then choosing to live a life based on those values.

Everyone has their own moral code and value system, and whether we like it or not, we must accept what is for what it is.

People must uphold the law and push to get the billions of dollars back to the Malaysian people to help move their society forwards for the benefit of the world.

Consider this… not everyone involved was necessarily bad to the bone, some of them got caught up in the “well if everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?” herd mentality, and some may have simply made a series of bad choices and became too entrenched to leave before things went sour.

We are all much the same in this way.

I guess the question to ask yourself is this:

If someone wanted to give you 100million dollars tax free on the basis that you accept it without question or consequence, would you take it?

Noting that you do not know the origin of the money and nor will you ever find out.

That’s a  tough one.

My answer would probably be yes. Then I’d try my damned hardest to investigate the origin of the money. And if I found it to be corruptive, I would find a way to give most of it back to people who needed the money to improve their lives through education, infrastructure, healthcare and so on. Like Robin Hood.

Robin Hood is often cast as a vigilante though… 🤔

Have you read Billion Dollar Whale? Please share in the comments below!

#book #bookreview #billiondollarwhale #1MDB #Ethics


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