The firm that offers citizenship and residence programmes has been linked to Jho Low’s Cypriot passport
by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by BLOOMBERG
HENLEY & Partners has denied any business relationship with wanted fugitive Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) (picture) who has been alleged as the mastermind behind the billions stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
The professional firm that offers citizenship and residence programmes — largely to super-rich individuals — has been linked to Jho Low’s Cypriot passport.
The company told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that the Penang-born businessman had approached the company in 2015, but the professional firm had declined to accept Jho Low as a client.
Henley & Partners said it was aware of the numerous misleading articles that have linked Henley & Partners in connection with the Malaysian fugitive.
“Contrary to what has been stated in multiple articles, Low has never been a client of Henley & Partners. While he approached Henley & Partners in 2015, the firm declined to accept Jho Low as a client.
“It is therefore false to state that ‘Henley & Partners helped Jho Low acquire Cypriot citizenship,’” Henley & Partners head of public relations for South-East Asia Alina Morais told TMR.
Henley & Partners has an office in Kuala Lumpur.
Morais said Henley & Partners had never been approached for comments to clarify the matter.
“We have not, therefore, had the opportunity to engage with the articles or the ‘evidence’ presented, which has been taken entirely out of context to fit a narrative that does not represent an objective assessment of the situation,” Morais added.
Over the past 20 years, she said Henley & Partners has invested significant time and capital in creating a corporate structure that is wedded to best practice governance and the highest levels of due diligence, even before passing a client over to the consideration of a sovereign state.
She said concerning the Cyprus citizenship acquired by Jho Low and other similar cases, it is the responsibility of the Cyprus government to process and approve the applications.
“Governments are in a position to annul any citizenship granted under their programmes if there has been any misrepresentation by applicants,” she added.
The media reported that Jho Low obtained the Cypriot passport in 2015 after he invested in properties worth of €5 million (RM23.1 million) in the Famagusta district.
At the time of the citizenship approval, Jho Low who was dubbed at 1MDB’s informal advisor had not been linked to the 1MDB scandal. He was also not on Interpol’s wanted fugitive list.
Yesterday, Cyprus pledged to revoke the passports wrongly granted to wealthy overseas investors who surrendered a large amount of cash in return for easy citizenship.
President Nicos Anastasiades said errors could have been made in granting such so-called “golden passports”.
He said this was under an earlier, laxer version of the programme.
“We have to admit mistakes over some ‘blatant’ instances where passports shouldn’t have been issued,” Anastasiades was quoted by the Associated Press.
Apart from white sandy beaches and sheep milk-based Haloumi cheese, the third-largest island in the Mediterranean is also famous for partying, rivalling Ibiza in Spain.
Under the Cyprus investment programme, applicants could enjoy a visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 173 destinations including Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK as one of the benefits.
Investors also have the right of free movement, freedom to work and study, and security within the social and legal system of the European Union.
The investment programme grants full Cypriot citizenship to wealthy individuals who invest €2.15 million into the country.
The cash-for-citizenship programme is the front door for elites and high net-worth individuals to gain a second passport.
Malaysian Association of Tax Accountants president Datuk Abdul Aziz Abu Bakar said many Malaysians have enrolled in citizenship by investment programmes available around the world, particularly in Australia and Canada.
“Countries like Australia and Canada appealed to Malaysians because of its economic stability and ‘friendly’ policies. I have never heard any Malaysians do citizenship by investment in Cyprus,” Abdul Aziz told TMR.
Jho Low’s Cyprus citizenship gives the fugitive the green card to enter certain countries and seek protection.
“It is possible that he gets some protection. Cyprus could be a place to stay securely without any harassment. People could isolate themselves incognito there,” Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam told TMR.
Ramon, who had visited Cyprus, said: “They could live in style in Cyprus.”