ExplainerWho is Malaysian fugitive Nicky Liow and what links him to ex-Macau triad boss ‘Broken Tooth’ Wan Kuok-koi?
- Malaysian law enforcement personnel have been linked to the 33-year-old fugitive businessman, who was last seen fleeing Puchong in March
- Suspected of bribing a string of officials in the country, he is also the vice-chairman of Wan Kuok-koi’s World Hongmen History and Culture Association
Liow is the vice-chairman of the World Hongmen History and Culture Association, which claims tens of thousands of members worldwide and was founded by Wan after his release from prison in 2012 with the stated aim of promoting solidarity and cultural exchange among Chinese communities around the globe.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission cited suspected links with Liow as the reason for arresting two of its own officials in April – one of whom was later charged with conspiring to receive a 100,000 ringgit (US$23,900) bribe.
Liow’s current whereabouts are unknown. The 33-year-old has been accused of money laundering, involvement with scam syndicates in Macau, and commercial crime. Police in Malaysia filed an Interpol Red Notice for his arrest on organised crime charges after he reportedly evaded capture in March, fleeing the town of Puchong, 20km southwest of Kuala Lumpur, with eight bags of cash in tow.
Some Malaysian media outlets reported in January that Wan was believed to be hiding out in Malaysia, though his actual whereabouts remain unknown.
A video uploaded to the internet in March that was widely reported on by Malaysian and Chinese tabloids showed Wan visiting the headquarters of Liow’s company Winner Dynasty Group in 2019, with the two seen bonding over karaoke and durian.
Malaysian police did not respond to questions about the whereabouts of Liow and Wan, and on the latest action they had taken on the cases.
Who is Nicky Liow?
The founder and chairman of Winner Dynasty Group, registered in Britain in 2016 with himself and his brother Liow Wei Hoon as directors, has sought to present himself as an altruistic philanthropist who rose from humble roots.
On paper, his company is a wholesaler of coffee, tea, cocoa, and spices, but a look at its Facebook page reveals business ventures spanning e-commerce, entertainment, investment, technology and publishing, with a particular focus on a series of e-commerce apps and cryptocurrency trading platforms under the name “Yunbao”.
Who is ‘Broken Tooth’?
Wan Kuok-koi, 65, was imprisoned in Macau for 14 years for a string of crimes, including leading the 14K triad gang’s Macau faction.
In placing sanctions on Wan’s Cambodia-based World Hongmen group and Hong Kong-based Dongmei Group, it said “the 14K Triad is utilising Broken Tooth’s World Hongmen History and Culture Association as an effort to legitimise itself”.
In Malaysia, Wan is wanted on charges relating to his six-month tenure last year as non-executive chairman of Inix Technologies Holdings Berhad, during which authorities suspect some 6 million ringgit (US$1.43 million) in stock manipulation and fraud took place when he failed to transfer publicly listed shares of the company to a third party.
How did Nicky Liow become a Datuk Seri?
Liow received the Darjah Sri Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang award from Pahang Palace in 2015, according to reports in Malaysian media, allowing him to use the prestigious title of “Datuk Seri”.
A high-profile assault case in 2017 that resulted in Liow’s arrest – then rearrest on drugs charges after testing positive for narcotics – brought his title to the public’s attention after featuring in news reports, with many questioning how a young entrepreneur with a criminal record who could often be seen flaunting his wealth and accolades on social media came to be awarded the Datuk Seri title.
At the time, police mentioned Liow’s involvement in an earlier drugs case, which was one of as many as 12 drugs and assault charges to his name, Inspector General Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador told reporters earlier this year.
The Pahang Palace revoked Liow and his brother’s titles in April this year, following the police raid and issuance of an Interpol Red Notice.
What gave him away?
Despite causing a stir with his drugs and assault charges, Liow managed to mostly keep off the police’s radar until inquiries into the sale of a mobile phone worth 1,500 ringgit triggered a full-blown investigation that eventually led back to his Puchong-based syndicate.
A number of law enforcement officers and other officials had colluded with Liow, the investigation revealed, with one former deputy public prosecutor even acting as his “fixer” – providing information that allowed him to evade capture.
The target of multiple attempts at his capture by the authorities, Liow was last seen in March at a nightclub in Puchong.
An eight-day police operation in the area led to the arrest of 68 people linked to him, including two holding the title of Datuk Seri and six of Datuk. Liow, meanwhile, escaped with as much cash as he could carry.
In April, 10 policemen were arrested alongside the two MACC officials for having links to Liow, in what became known as Operation Pelican 3.0, with some 34 law enforcement personnel suspected of ties to Liow’s syndicate in all.