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Scores of Chinese nationals demonstrate outside their embassy in Malaysia in 2019 claiming they lost their life savings to Teow’s MBI group. Photo: Irene Andy / Facebook

‘Jho Low 2’: Malaysia says Tedy Teow has fled to Thailand after US$83 million Macau scam

  • Police believe the fugitive businessman is hiding in Thailand with his children after a scam based on cryptocurrency and high-end property
  • Case has earned Teow the moniker ‘Jho Low 2’ over comparisons to the mastermind of the 1MDB scandal

An enigmatic Malaysian businessman with links to the rich and famous disappears, apparently fleeing the country and leaving in his wake hundreds of millions of missing ringgit, a string of angry investors and a host of questions about how this could have been allowed to happen.

You could be forgiven for thinking this is Low Taek Jho, or “Jho Low”, whose alleged plundering of the Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB and links to Hollywood celebrities inspired the book ‘Billion Dollar Whale’.
But in fact this is “Jho Low 2”. Or at least that is how the Malaysian media are referring to businessman Tedy Teow Wooi Huat following the news he is wanted in connection with a 336 million ringgit (US$83 million) money-laundering scam in Macau.
Tedy Teow. Photo: MBI International

The comparisons with Jho Low and the allegations against Teow are colourful to say the least. Like Low, Teow hails from Penang and appears to have had a penchant for the silver screen. While Low invested US$100 million in the Hollywood movie The Wolf of Wall Street, a Hong Kong movie database gives Teow a presenting credit for All My Goddess, a Cantonese-language film starring Maggie Cheung Ho-yee.

Police believe Teow, 55, was the mastermind behind a syndicate that tricked people in the Chinese Special Administrative Region into investing their money in bogus companies, the “directors” of which were apparently drug users paid 15,000 ringgit (US$3,700) a month by Teow.

The Malaysian fugitive financier Jho Low. Photo: AP

The investments would then be filtered through a series of “mule” accounts, to make them harder to track, before eventually being used to purchase high-end property in Malaysia and neighbouring Thailand and to invest in cryptocurrency.

Malaysian police on January 3 announced they had arrested 12 of the bogus directors in December and tracked down 91 of the mule bank accounts.

Johor state police chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said the investigation had revealed one Malaysian property developer had been paid 25 million ringgit from these accounts as part of a purchase of 100 luxury condominiums and commercial units in George Town, Penang.

The hunt for Jho Low: is net closing on 1MDB’s billion-dollar whale?

As with Jho Low, who remains at large, the police believe that Teow, founder of MBI Group International which describes itself as having “diversified interests in resources and management developments”, is now hiding out abroad. Officers believe Teow has fled to Thailand along with his two children, who have also been accused of involvement in the scam.

A HISTORY OF CONTROVERSY The scandal is likely to prompt searching questions for the authorities, given this is not the first time Teow has been in trouble with the law.

His company MBI Group International made headlines in October 2019 when about 100 Chinese nationals staged a demonstration outside the embassy in Malaysia claiming they had lost their life savings to the firm.

The embassy said the people had complained of being “cheated” by an online pyramid scheme run by MBI Group International.

That demonstration came only a year after Teow, MBI Group International and its subsidiary Mface International, were in 2018 charged with various offences including issuing electronic payments unrecognised by Malaysia’s central bank, promoting pyramid schemes, and involvement in money laundering.

The offences related to a scam in which investors were encouraged to purchase MBI’s unlicensed and unrecognised cryptocurrency with real money and spend it at MBI-linked establishments, including a shopping centre called M Mall in Penang that was popular among Chinese tourists.

On that occasion, Teow was fined 3 million ringgit, Mface 7 million ringgit, and MBI 2.5 million ringgit.

However, the 2018 incident was not Teow’s first brush with the law either. In 2011 he was fined 160,000 ringgit for misleading investors.

Fugitive Malaysian tycoon Jho Low nears US$1 billion settlement with US

That fine appears to have done little to harm Teow’s ability to schmooze or attract investment. Following the 2011 case, Teow went to China to seek a “second chance”, according to a video biography released on YouTube in 2013.

Another video, uploaded in 2014 and titled “MBI International 5th Anniversary Gala Dinner Highlights”, shows him taking photos with hundreds of attendees dressed to the nines as they enjoy a banquet dinner and watch live performances.

A third video, uploaded in 2019, shows Teow speaking in Mandarin and calling for support for a cryptocurrency project which he claims has brought in more than 600 million ringgit in its first few days. The video shows Teow claiming the project will profit its three million members only if they hold on to or use their cryptocurrency. “Only by utilising our cryptocurrencies can we realise their worth, and that would mean wealth for all three million of us. As owners of the cryptocurrency, the key to wealth is in your hands,” he says in the video.

Prior to his fine in 2011, little had been publicly reported about Teow. However, the biographical video from 2013 suggests he started his business life at an early age, selling combs and pencils to schoolmates.

Additional reporting by Cheryl Heng