Jersey Registered 'Citizenship' Firm Aided Jho Low's Fugitive Life For Massive Payments - SPECIAL INVESTIGATION

Sarawak Report, in a joint inves­ti­ga­tion with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), has exam­ined how at the height of the 1MDB scan­dal the Malaysian fraud­ster Jho Low utilised a net­work of ser­vices accessed through a com­pa­ny which describes itself as the “The Global Leader in Residence and Citizenship Planning” to con­tin­ue to move him­self and his mon­ey around the world.

Henley & Partners Holdings Limited (H&P) is based in the Channel Islands and oper­ates  a web of main­ly off-shore compani∂aes, boast­ing an esti­mat­ed annu­al rev­enue of $73 mil­lion dol­lars assist­ing so-called ultra high net worth indi­vid­u­als seek­ing mul­ti­ple cit­i­zen­ships. The group has repeat­ed­ly denied it ever signed up Jho Low as a client or received ‘direct pay­ment’ from him.

Henley & Partners reject­ed Mr Jho Low as a client in 2015. This was due to the con­tents of an exter­nal due dili­gence report that made it clear that he was a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion PEP, hav­ing been very close to the Malaysia gov­ern­ment of
the day, which was cor­rect­ly assessed as too high risk. He there­fore did not pass our on board­ing pro­ce­dures.
[Statement from H&P 20th Jan 2021]

However, exten­sive evi­dence reviewed by this inves­ti­ga­tion and ulti­mate­ly admit­ted to by the com­pa­ny shows H&P nonethe­less referred the wealthy Malaysian fugi­tive to an estab­lished net­work of close busi­ness part­ners in return for at least 75% of the mas­sive fees paid by Jho Low to obtain one such citizenship.

The arm’s length oper­a­tion, which appeared to dis­tance the com­pa­ny from this tox­ic client, net­ted H&P at least €700,000 from Jho Low’s acqui­si­tion of Cyrpiot cit­i­zen­ship through a prop­er­ty pur­chase organ­ised through Henley’s busi­ness con­tacts on the island. We can also demon­strate that H&P, despite denials, were involved every step of the way.

In the process Jho Low obtained not only a €5 mil­lion prop­er­ty and a pass­port for him­self, but like­wise pur­chased homes and applied for pass­ports on behalf of sev­er­al mem­bers of his inner cir­cle who are also on the run over 1MDB. These includ­ed his broth­er Low Taek Szen, Loo Ai Swan (Jasmine Loo), Tan Kim Loong (Eric Tan) and girl­friend Jesselynn Chuang Teik Ying, who applied for her papers as late as May 2019, more than a year after the pros­e­cu­tion of Najib over 1MDB began in Malaysia.

The mat­ter is cur­rent­ly at the cen­tre of a major offi­cial enquiry in Cyprus, which has sus­pend­ed its cit­i­zen­ship pro­gramme under legal pres­sure from the EU fol­low­ing mul­ti­ple reports of cor­rup­tion and bribery. Last week the Archbishop of Cyprus was ques­tioned by the enquiry after admit­ting that he had din­ner with Jho Low at which the fugi­tive pledged what turned out to be a €300,000 dona­tion towards a the­o­log­i­cal school.

Following the meet­ing, the Archbishop sent let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion to the Interior Minister urg­ing he should be grant­ed cit­i­zen­ship. Archbishop Chrysostomos now says he would be will­ing to return the money.

In January a Henley & Partners spokesman final­ly con­ced­ed that their com­pa­ny also ben­e­fit­ted from the fugitive’s cit­i­zen­ship trans­ac­tions as a result of refer­ring him to 3rd par­ties, but only after we pro­vid­ed evi­dence of at least three sep­a­rate invoic­es paid to the com­pa­ny in September 2015 cit­ing ser­vices to Jho Low and totalling €700,000:

Jho Low was nev­er our client. We nev­er received pay­ment from him. We did receive com­mis­sion pay­ments from inde­pen­dent 3rd par­ties fol­low­ing our refer­ral of busi­ness to them.”
[H&P Communications Director, Paddy Blewer’s final amend­ed state­ment to SR/OCCRP, 22nd Jan 2021]

Explaining the company’s dis­as­so­ci­a­tion from Jho Low, whilst at the same time receiv­ing the lion’s share of the fees paid by the fugi­tive to gain cit­i­zen­ship, the spokesman, Communications Director Paddy Blewer, had described “invest­ment migra­tion” as a “niche and com­plex business”:

It is there­fore entire­ly under­stand­able that those from out­side the indus­try can make hon­est mis­takes in their analy­sis of how trans­ac­tions are man­aged, who is advis­ing and who is com­pen­sat­ed and by whom etc.”

However, Blewer main­tained it was impor­tant to under­stand that the com­pa­ny to which H&P had referred Jho Low in Cyprus, a ser­vice provider named Fides Corp, was entire­ly inde­pen­dent of them­selves, “an exter­nal and inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant” and just one of “mul­ti­ple advi­sors” used by H&P:

The best way to describe the rela­tion­ship with FidesCorp Limited is one of sev­er­al ad hoc col­lab­o­ra­tions on shared clients. This is an inde­pen­dent ser­vice provider who does for the most part its own account­ing, cor­po­rate ser­vice provider, han­dling their own appli­ca­tions for their own clients, and sim­i­lar busi­ness. We oth­er­wise have noth­ing to do with FidesCorp Limited”

To be very clear, Jho Low was nev­er a client of Henley & Partners. Henley & Partners was not man­dat­ed by Jho Low.

We can how­ev­er under­stand a lev­el of con­fu­sion from out­side observers as to the nature of the rela­tion­ship. It can be explained as follows:

  1. Jho Low was reject­ed by Henley & Partners as an invest­ment migra­tion advi­so­ry client
  2. Jho Low was referred with­out prej­u­dice to an exter­nal and inde­pen­dent consultant
  3. Jho Low (it should be assumed) was advised by the inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant as regards Cyprus Citizenship by Investment Application………. At no point did any per­son or enti­ty with­in the H&P Group struc­ture, includ­ing Henley Estates, ever
    con­tract or receive income direct­ly from Jho Low. They con­tract­ed and received income from long stand­ing cor­po­rate real estate partners.

Nonetheless, doc­u­ments and emails obtained by the inves­ti­ga­tion pro­vide a very dif­fer­ent pic­ture. They show that H&P senior offi­cers did direct­ly engage with Jho Low to assist in his prop­er­ty pur­chas­es and cit­i­zen­ship appli­ca­tion claim­ing by far the largest share of the payable fees in the process.

And far from being an ‘exter­nal inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant’ H&P’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Cyprus, Yiannos Trisokkas, described Fides Corp to Jho Low him­self as their“exclu­sive local ser­vice provider” on the island.

Moreover, whilst invoic­es were chan­nelled through Fides Corp, pay­ments were made direct to H&P’s Malta bank account from a per­son­al escrow account arranged for Jho Low in Cyprus by Yiannos Trisokkas in his capac­i­ty as “Director of Henley & Partners Cyprus Limited”.

In one direct email sent by Trisokkas to Jho Low 21st June 2015, Trisokkas advised the sup­pos­ed­ly reject­ed client:

Dear Mr Low, We have already instruct­ed our exclu­sive local ser­vice provider and the com­pa­nies are ready with the nom­i­nee ser­vices includ­ed as well. Once the con­tract of sale is signed for the vil­la between the sell­er and the buy­er (your com­pa­ny) then the nom­i­nee will be sign­ing fur­ther to your writ­ten instruc­tions….. the same trust will be sub­mit­ted for the cit­i­zen­ship application”

Trisokkas advised in the same email that he had organ­ised for Jho Low to per­son­al­ly open the local escrow account specif­i­cal­ly to finance the appli­ca­tion costs:

a client escrow account is opened fur­ther to our direc­tions, please see attached. For appli­ca­tion pur­pos­es the min­istry of finance accepts client accounts specif­i­cal­ly opened for each client”

The total fees for the house pur­chase were list­ed as €5,960,000, how­ev­er Trisokkas warned in that this “does not include any­thing relat­ed to your cit­i­zen­ship application”.

Trisokkas then addressed anoth­er H&P senior fig­ure copied into the email, Jennifer Lai, Managing Partner and Head of Business for H&P North Asia, adding the comment:

Jennifer, please advise if you have invoiced Mr Low for the cit­i­zen­ship application.”

H&P duly invoiced Fides Corp imme­di­ate­ly after the prop­er­ty pur­chase was com­plet­ed in September for a total of €54,000 out of the €80,000 that Fides Corp charged Jho Low for his “cit­i­zen­ship fees”.

Whopping Real Estate Commission

Days lat­er a fur­ther €650,000 was also paid to H&P’s Malta bank account direct from the same Jho Low ‘client escrow account’ that Trisokkas had arranged through Fides Corps as a whop­ping 13% com­mis­sion on the €5 mil­lion prop­er­ty pur­chase made by Jho as part of the same cit­i­zen­ship transaction.

The grand total received by H&P in return for this one Cypriot cit­i­zen­ship for Jho Low was there­fore at least €700,000. It is under­stood that in the event the oth­er pass­port appli­ca­tions for his entourage failed to be processed.

It is there­fore clear that despite H&P’s repeat­ed claims that they received no pay­ment direct­ly from Jho Low and that they were reward­ed only for refer­rals to inde­pen­dent third par­ties who autonomous­ly han­dled the case, the Malaysian fugi­tive was in touch with H&P senior staff through­out his cit­i­zen­ship appli­ca­tion to Cyprus through the island’s con­tro­ver­sial pass­port for prop­er­ty scheme and paid directly.

What’s more, fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful appli­ca­tion and the pay­ment of those fees Trisokkas and his col­leagues were to con­tin­ue to assist Jho Low accord­ing to lat­er doc­u­ments we have also obtained.

Client Agreement

Just four months before obtain­ing his Cypriot cit­i­zen­ship Jho Low signed a direct ‘Client Agreement’ with H&P dat­ed 7th May 2015. As part of the Client Agreement H&P had required Jho Low to sign a due dili­gence pledge that he would the ulti­mate source of all funds payable to H&P.

H&P claim that the above agree­ment was can­celled fol­low­ing a neg­a­tive KYC (Know Your Customer) report in June 2015, how­ev­er they have so far pro­vid­ed no evi­dence of the cancellation.

A ‘One-Off’ Transaction

When asked to explain the €650,000 prop­er­ty com­mis­sion received by their Malta head office from an alleged­ly reject­ed client, H&P claimed that it owed to an inher­it­ed real estate arrange­ment that Jho Low had made with anoth­er pre­vi­ous­ly ‘inde­pen­dent’ con­sul­tant, Andrew Taylor, who lat­er joined the company

H&P explained Taylor’s own com­pa­ny, Taylored Estates, had a licence from an H&P Malta sub­sidiary called Henley Estates (only oper­a­tional under that title since May 2014) to utilise the com­pa­ny name for prop­er­ty trans­ac­tions. H&P has so far failed to pro­vide evi­dence of this tran­sient licens­ing agreement.

Taylor became a part­ner and Group Vice Chairman of H&P in March 2015, explains Paddy Blewer, there­by absorb­ing his pre­vi­ous­ly ‘autonomous’ busi­ness along with the pri­or arrange­ment with Jho Low into the com­pa­ny. This enti­tled H&P to receive the com­mis­sion,  the com­pa­ny argues.

On the oth­er hand, Blewer admits such prac­tices should no longer continue.

Since the orig­i­nal expos­es in 2019 about the company’s con­nec­tions with Jho Low (in 2019) there has been a thor­ough review of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and a reform of com­pa­ny pro­ce­dures. “Henley and Partners in 2021 is not the Henley of Partners of 2010, or of 2015–17″ he said:

this trans­ac­tion was iden­ti­fied as a one off that should not be repeat­ed and is con­trary to our adjust­ed cor­po­rate gov­er­nance post inte­gra­tion of Henley Estates…. Henley & Partners has both enhanced its gov­er­nance stan­dards and altered its con­tracts with exter­nal par­ties to ensure that if it rejects an indi­vid­ual for any rea­son, it can no longer ben­e­fit even indi­rect­ly from that individual’s pos­si­ble sub­se­quent trans­ac­tions in any way.
[H&P Statement January 13th]

When Sarawak Report/OCCRP then alert­ed H&P to the grow­ing body of evi­dence show­ing that, far from being a “one off” trans­ac­tion, senior H&P staff – name­ly Trisokkas and H&P’s Head of Business Development, Jennifer Lai – had con­tin­ued as late as November 2016 to engage and assist Jho Low in his prop­er­ty trans­ac­tions (Jho Low lat­er swapped his prop­er­ty to a larg­er more exclu­sive plot) H&P fur­ther updat­ed its response.

H&P explained in its updat­ed state­ment that although the firm main­tains it “did noth­ing wrong” some “indi­vid­ual mem­bers of staff” might have failed to “exer­cise suf­fi­cient lev­els of judge­ment“.

Spokesman Paddy Blewer fur­ther revealed that all the staff we iden­ti­fied as hav­ing con­tin­ued to per­form ser­vices for Jho Low are now no longer with the com­pa­ny, includ­ing Andrew Taylor and the for­mer CEO at that time:

We remain entire­ly cer­tain that this firm did noth­ing wrong. It may be that some indi­vid­ual staff mem­bers involved at that time did not act as one team or failed to adhere to the new pro­ce­dures, or did not exer­cise a suf­fi­cient lev­el of judg­ment as to their inter­ac­tion with real estate partners.

To reit­er­ate this impor­tant point, any­one involved in this trans­ac­tion at a senior lev­el is no longer with the firm today. Yiannos Trisakkos, Jennifer Lai, Andrew Taylor and the pre­vi­ous CEO have all sub­se­quent­ly left the com­pa­ny.”
[Statement by H&P 20th January]

Despite this move to effec­tive­ly blame and dis­as­so­ci­ate the com­pa­ny from these senior for­mer staff mem­bers, Sarawak Report has not­ed that both Jennifer Lai and Yiannos Trisokkas con­tin­ued to be adver­tised as exist­ing employ­ees on the com­pa­ny web­site until the day after H&P issued us that state­ment – at which point their names were both removed. Meanwhile, Trisokkas con­tin­ued to remain as the reg­is­tered direc­tor of the H&P Cypriot sub­sidiary, Henley & Partners Cyprus (as of January 20th last checked).

Likewise, until we noti­fied Henley of the doc­u­ments in our pos­ses­sion, Andrew Taylor con­tin­ued to rep­re­sent his pri­ma­ry employ­ment on his Linked In page as work­ing for H&P …  since 2009 “till present”.

His Linked In page was sub­se­quent­ly altered to announce he had left H&P in 2018 and had start­ed a new com­pa­ny in 2019. These changes to the details on his CV also appeared on 13th January 2021, the same day H&P issued the above state­ment to Sarawak Report and changed their own website.

In amend­ing his Linked In CV Andrew Taylor not only added a new com­pa­ny he has head­ed since 2018 but altered the stat­ed dates of his past employ­ment with H&P.

However, both ver­sions claim that Andrew Taylor in fact became H&P Group Vice Chairman in June 2014, which is a full year before March 2015 when H&P say he merged his pri­or busi­ness with Jho low into the com­pa­ny and also pre-dates the May 2015 Client Agreement which Jho Low direct­ly signed with H&P itself.

Blurred Relationships

Andrew Taylor’s rela­tion­ship with H&P in fact pre­dates Henley Estates and appears far reach­ing.  Close ties with the Chairman of H&P, Christian Kalin, in the immi­gra­tion busi­ness are evi­denced by their pub­li­ca­tion of a joint­ly authored book the “International Real Estate Handbook” in September 2013 under the imprint of H&P and Henley Estates

H&P’s Paddy Blewer explained that the company’s busi­ness and exper­tise is immi­gra­tion and cit­i­zen­ship law only and it there­fore plays no direct role in real estate trans­ac­tions linked to cit­i­zen­ship – hence the part­ner­ship with Taylor and his
com­pa­ny ‘Taylored Way’ and the merg­er in 2015.

Henley & Partners, as a pure play invest­ment migra­tion advi­so­ry firm, had nei­ther the expe­ri­ence or appetite to engage in the man­age­ment or oper­a­tion of a real estate com­pa­ny, or pro­vide cred­i­ble advice on real estate invest­ments. It was there­fore nec­es­sary to source and devel­op a more struc­tured for­malised glob­al agree­ment with an exter­nal organ­i­sa­tion …. As a result, Taylored Way changed its name to Henley Estates, and Andrew Taylor (the man­ag­ing direc­tor) led the expan­sion
from 2013 onwards” 
[Paddy Blewer].

Yet despite the stat­ed lack of exper­tise, it is notable the orig­i­nal edi­tion of the International Real Estate Handbook book was pub­lished in 2005 by Christian Kalin as the sole author. The pub­lish­er describes Kalin as “an inter­na­tion­al real estate, tax and estate-plan­ning spe­cial­ist and a part­ner at Henley & Partners, Zurich”,  mak­ing for a com­plex web indeed of pro­fessed auton­o­my and expertise.

Equally con­fus­ing­ly, Taylor states in his own CV that he actu­al­ly worked as a man­ag­ing part­ner of Henley Estates as ear­ly as 2009 (amend­ed to 2012 in the updat­ed Linked In). In the absence of doc­u­men­ta­tion from H&P it is unclear if this posi­tion was for the actu­al group or under anoth­er licence to use the name of Henley Estates.

Do Not Use Our Changing Statements Against Us

H&P has empha­sised that the com­pa­ny now con­tributes to var­i­ous char­i­ta­ble ini­tia­tives linked to “UNHCR, UNICEF, Andan Foundation and many oth­ers” assist­ing poor migrants. Yet, despite the ref­er­ences to lat­er reforms and staff removals, the com­pa­ny still rejects any wrong­do­ing or incon­sis­ten­cy on its part regard­ing its han­dling of Jho Low or its ear­li­er state­ments. Neither has Henley said it will return any mon­ey to 1MDB:

It would be disin­gen­u­ous for you to cast asper­sions [against H&P] that sim­ply do not exist…. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly so were you to sug­gest that pre­vi­ous state­ments issued by us were untrue. To car­ry such false alle­ga­tions would risk caus­ing seri­ous harm to our busi­ness.”
[Statement H&P 30th December]

However, there has been a prob­lem with chang­ing state­ments from H&P, who have plain­ly altered their expla­na­tions in response to esca­lat­ing leaks about their busi­ness (direct or indi­rect) with Low Taek Jho.

For exam­ple, the €650,000 fee that was paid to H&P in September 2015 as a com­mis­sion for Jho Low’s prop­er­ty pur­chase was, accord­ing to doc­u­ments and infor­ma­tion, orig­i­nal­ly paid through a Cyprus com­pa­ny named Donnica Management 23rd September 2015.

However, the pay­ment was then returned from the H&P’s Malta bank account and was lat­er re-sent on 30th September 2015, this time direct­ly from the escrow Fides Corp client account for Jho Low instead (see above).

However, in the ear­ly expos­es about the fraudster’s Cypriot links it was only a copy of the can­celled pay­ment by Donnica Management that was picked up by the inter­na­tion­al press, includ­ing the Financial Times who approached H&P for an

Expressing frus­tra­tion over reports that had con­nect­ed H&P to Jho Low H&P had first com­plained in a statement:

Henley & Partners is aware of numer­ous mis­lead­ing arti­cles that have men­tioned Henley & Partners in con­nec­tion to Jho Low, the Malaysian fugi­tive….. the firm declined to accept Mr. Low as a client. It is there­fore false to state that “Henley & Partners helped Jho Low acquire Cypriot cit­i­zen­ship.” [Statement November 2019]

Specifically H&P then told the Financial Times that “the mon­ey did not orig­i­nate from any enti­ty linked to Mr Low or his associates.”

Henley & Partners told the FT that the pay­ment was a fee from a Cypriot devel­op­er under a pre-exist­ing agree­ment for Henley Estates to pro­vide “mar­ket­ing sup­port ser­vices”, and the mon­ey did not orig­i­nate from any enti­ty linked to Mr Low or his asso­ciates.
Juerg Steffen, H&P chief exec­u­tive, said the pay­ment should nonethe­less not have been tak­en, since his com­pa­ny had pre­vi­ous­ly reject­ed Mr Low as a client fol­low­ing due dili­gence checks.
Mr Steffen said the case had helped trig­ger an over­haul of gov­er­nance stan­dards in the Henley com­pa­nies. “Hindsight is a won­der­ful thing,” he said.
[Financial Times 24th November 2019]

However, as the lat­est doc­u­ments that have now come to light reveal, that the pay­ment did not ulti­mate­ly arrive from the ‘Cypriot devel­op­er’ Donnica Management but from the Fides Corp’s client account for Jho Low. This was plain­ly an enti­ty con­nect­ed to Jho Low.

Records fur­ther show that Donnica Management is itself inex­tri­ca­bly and direct­ly tied to H&P. The com­pa­ny was set up 15th May 2015 just one week after Jho Low signed his Client Agreement with H&P and it appears to have exist­ed pri­mar­i­ly to facil­i­tate the com­mis­sion for his €5 mil­lion prop­er­ty transaction.

The shell com­pa­ny shares an address and Director (Andreas Trisokkas) with a sub­sidiary of an estab­lished devel­op­er on the island, Sky Prime Group, who sold the prop­er­ty to Jho Low accord­ing to research by OCCRP. It is the address of their mutu­al lawyer which hous­es numer­ous such Cypriot companies.

The oth­er direc­tor of Donnica Management from the date of its incor­po­ra­tion was Ha Thi Hong Gam, a staff mem­ber of Henley & Partners based in Vietnam:

Ha Thi Hong Gam makes clear she was the Vietnamese Director rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Henley & Partners at that time accord­ing on her Linked In site:

And also accord­ing to H&P’s own web­site at the time which described her as a Director of Business Development:

The con­clu­sion must be that far from this being an inde­pen­dent third par­ty trans­ac­tion H&P was involved in the Jho Low prop­er­ty for cit­i­zen­ship pur­chase from the start, whilst claim­ing they reject­ed him as a client.

Indeed, the same Ha Thi Hong Gam is reg­is­tered as the Director of a num­ber of oth­er Cyprus com­pa­nies includ­ing Sky Prime Holdings, again in tan­dem with Andreas Trisokkas.

Thus the pic­ture emerges of an inter­wo­ven rela­tion­ship between H&P and the local devel­op­ers and ser­vice providers involved in the prop­er­ty for pass­port deal arranged for Jho Low – and it would appear for oth­er clients also.

Notably, the local facil­i­ta­tors such as Fides Corp itself only received a frac­tion of the fees payed by Jho Low – 20% of the €80,000 charged for cit­i­zen­ship work – with the rest going to H&P. This evi­dence would sug­gest H&P was the dom­i­nant and dri­ving enti­ty behind the  appli­ca­tion from start to finish.

Jho Low Wanted His Own Bank – And Multiple Passports

According to our research, the same net­work of agen­cies even engaged in the fraudster’s ongo­ing mul­ti­ple attempts to buy con­trol­ling stakes in pri­vate off-shore banks as late as 2016, by which time his infamy was world­wide and the world bank­ing sys­tem had closed its doors against him.

Sarawak Report has already report­ed how in order to facil­i­tate the trans­fer of his stolen cash piles Jho Low teamed up that year with a Kuwaiti roy­al sheikh, the son of the then Kuwaiti prime min­is­ter Sheikh Sabah Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah (Sheikh Sabah), who act­ed as a front pay­ing bills and mak­ing mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar transfers.

Fides Corp agreed to man­age nego­ti­a­tions on behalf of Sheikh Sabah for the pur­chase of a stake in the Cyprus Development Bank. It was Jho Low who made the intro­duc­tion, Jho Low who stat­ed him­self to be act­ing as the Sheikh’s advi­sor and indeed it was Jho Low’s stolen Malaysian mon­ey behind the project.

According to doc­u­ments obtained by Sarawak Report, on 23rd June 2016 Jho emailed a man­date he had draft­ed for the Sheikh to sign autho­ris­ing Fides Corp to nego­ti­ate the pur­chase of up to 100% stake in the bank for €80 million.

The man­date, which the Sheikh duly signed and sent cites Jho Low quite clear­ly as the Sheikh’s “advi­sor” in the mat­ter, despite the fact the 1MDB scan­dal had been rag­ing for over a year. Two oth­ers also cit­ed as advi­sors in the man­date draft­ed by Low say they were not involved in the attempt­ed deal.

H&P has told Sarawak Report it also knows noth­ing of those arrange­ments and accord­ing to research by OCCRP the nego­ti­a­tions even­tu­al­ly stalled:

Even if this indi­vid­ual was a client (which he was not), this sort of sub­ject would not have been part of our dis­cus­sions, because Henley & Partners is pure­ly focused on pro­fes­sion­al invest­ment migra­tion advi­so­ry ser­vices. This is all we do”
[Statement 30th December 2020].

As late as November 2019, by which time he was the world’s most want­ed fraud­ster, Jho Low was still able to report­ed­ly trav­el to Abu
 on a pass­port obtained through anoth­er cit­i­zen­ship scheme relaunched in 2016 by H&P thanks to a man­date from the island gov­ern­ment of Grenada.

No one appar­ent­ly thought to alert INTERPOL to the exis­tence of that doc­u­ment. H&P denies it was involved in the obtain­ing of the passport.

The DOJ has also dis­closed that Jho Low held a sep­a­rate pass­port from the island of St Kitts & Nevis, which is also one of the
string of main­ly off­shore loca­tions where H&P boasts offices and local agents claim­ing to be the lead­ing pur­vey­ors under cash for pass­ports schemes. However, H&P in a state­ment has denied it sup­plied that pass­port either.

We can­not com­ment on whether or not Mr Low acquired cit­i­zen­ship and pass­ports from Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis because he was not a client of Henley & Partners … We can con­firm that nev­er han­dled any appli­ca­tion for this indi­vid­ual in any invest­ment migra­tion pro­gram any­where in the world, nor did we do any­thing else any­where for this per­son, because we reject­ed this indi­vid­ual as a client fol­low­ing our due dili­gence process. [H&P state­ment 30th December 2020]

Treasure Island Escape Routes For Global Fugitives?

Henley & Partners, front­ed by Swiss lawyer Christian Kalin as Group Chairman, mar­kets its ‘cit­i­zen­ship through invest­ment’ schemes as a route to ‘Global Citizenship’ for so-called ‘High Net Worth Individuals’ using a net­work of main­ly off-shore com­mon­wealth domains boast­ing visa free trav­el arrange­ments to the world’s top des­ti­na­tions such as Europe, the UK and America.

However, there are con­cerns that in the same way the off-shore finance sec­tor enables indi­vid­u­als to hide cash and assets, the off-shore cit­i­zen­ship busi­ness enables them to trav­el unfet­tered on mul­ti­ple pass­ports. Jho Low has exem­pli­fied the use to wealthy crooks and fugi­tives on the run.

Over the past two decades the trade has explod­ed into a mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar busi­ness for which H&P, as the mar­ket leader, makes no apologies:

We are par­tic­u­lar­ly proud of the fact that we have helped and are help­ing many coun­tries that are strug­gling to attract suf­fi­cient invest­ment and cre­ate jobs. Many of these coun­tries are post-colo­nial economies that have sig­nif­i­cant
dif­fi­cul­ties in the face of finan­cial crises, nat­ur­al dis­as­ters, and now this unprece­dent­ed glob­al pan­dem­ic with cat­a­stroph­ic impact in many eco­nom­ic sec­tors, and not least in tourism. We are equal­ly proud of the fact that we help hun­dreds of
fam­i­lies every year to improve their per­son­al secu­ri­ty and mobil­i­ty, as well as their over­all life oppor­tu­ni­ties, which are ran­dom­ly assigned by way of where you hap­pen to be born. We will always robust­ly defend our track record and the pos­i­tive
val­ue we cre­ate.”
[H&P Statement 30th December]

Cyprus has now sus­pend­ed its cit­i­zen­ship scheme and launched a major offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion into the scan­dal, includ­ing links between the indus­try and mem­bers of the gov­ern­ment
con­nect­ed to the scheme.

The Director of Fides Corp is him­self the son-in-law of the now resigned Speaker of the Parliament, Demetris Syllouris, also caught on record by Al Jazeera claim­ing he could fix the pass­port they required.

H&P has also been accused of close ties with the now fall­en Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who had been chal­lenged by jour­nal­ist Daphne Caruana Galizia for grant­i­ng the com­pa­ny an exclu­sive con­ces­sion for anoth­er pass­ports for sale scheme pro­vid­ing entry into the EU. Henley was report­ed­ly threat­en­ing legal action against Caruana Galizia before the jour­nal­ist was mur­dered by a car bomb.

Malta’s scheme has also now been sus­pend­ed and is under inves­ti­ga­tion by the EU.

Faustian Pact’ To Elect ‘Conducive’ Governments?

Further crit­i­cism of the company’s alleged manip­u­la­tive ties to off-shore polit­i­cal boss­es was pub­lished in the February 2019 report of the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media & Sport Committee enquiry into the scan­dal hit polit­i­cal con­sul­tan­cy Cambridge Analytica/SCL.

The com­mit­tee referred to a “Faustian Pact” between the two com­pa­nies where­by H&P steered dona­tions from wealthy pass­port buy­ers to rul­ing polit­i­cal par­ties to help keep the gov­ern­ments issu­ing pass­ports through the com­pa­ny in pow­er, includ­ing pay­ing SCL to run their elec­tion campaigns.

One exam­ple high­light­ed in news reports involved an elec­tion in St Kitts & Nevis. According to the Guardian news­pa­per H&P Chairman Christian Kalin first denied sup­port­ing elec­tions, then acknowl­edged he made some ‘intro­duc­tions’:

Kälin denies it. “This is rub­bish. This whole notion that we raised or organ­ised the financ­ing is mis­guid­ed,” he said.
Kälin insist­ed there was no coor­di­nat­ed effort by him, or Henley, to raise mon­ey for SCL. But he admit­ted many of his wealthy clients could have donat­ed to the cam­paign.
He recalled meet­ings where he intro­duced peo­ple to Douglas and SCL, which, he said, he saw as part of his man­date as the then hon­orary con­sul for St Kitts in Switzerland.
“At that time I had direct inter­ac­tion with clients. They trust­ed me. The prime min­is­ter trust­ed me. So I intro­duced many peo­ple to the prime min­is­ter. For sure many of them would have gone on to make a dona­tion.”
Some of those dona­tions, he says, would have been paid direct­ly to SCL, but not all donors were Henley clients.” [Guardian 16th Oct 2018
‘The pass­port king who mar­kets cit­i­zen­ship for cash’]

However, H&P has dis­missed the com­ments by the UK Parliamentary Committee as being under-informed and based on inac­cu­rate claims:

The ref­er­enced com­ments made by that com­mit­tee in its report were in fact out­side its terms of ref­er­ence. This per­haps puts in con­text why the state­ments we have described above are so inac­cu­rate. Indeed, had the report not been sub­ject to
par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege we would have suc­cess­ful­ly chal­lenged it as it con­tains a large num­ber of fac­tu­al­ly incor­rect state­ments.” [H&P state­ment 30th January].

What the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty can no longer ignore after exam­ples like Jho Low is that off-shore finan­cial secre­cy com­bined with mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar off-shore cit­i­zen­ship pro­grammes have become the key instru­ment for glob­al crim­i­nals to evade jus­tice,
hide illic­it funds and avoid pay­ing taxes.

Recent esti­mates cal­cu­late tril­lions of dol­lars are lost to world gov­ern­ments owing to this
cor­rup­tion – and the 1MDB scan­dal has helped place it in the spot­light. Following Brexit, the EU last week vot­ed to add the Channel Islands and British Virgin Islands to its off-shore black­list with oth­er major play­ers like the Cayman Islands like­ly to face sim­i­lar scrutiny.

The new United States President Joe Biden has also pledged to tight­en crack­downs on klep­toc­ra­cy and off-shore mon­ey laun­der­ing under which the FBI assist­ed in the pur­suit of Jho Low:

“I will lead efforts inter­na­tion­al­ly to bring trans­paren­cy to the glob­al finan­cial sys­tem, go after illic­it tax havens, seize stolen assets, and make it more dif­fi­cult for lead­ers who steal from their peo­ple to hide behind anony­mous front com­pa­nies,” [Foreign Affairs March 2020]

Indeed, as gov­ern­ments begin to chase the stolen mon­ey, off-shore oper­a­tors like Henley & Partners may find their busi­ness mod­el becomes more chal­leng­ing and that the next probes will be from reg­u­la­tors rather than journalists.

To read the full OCCRP inves­ti­ga­tion click here.

Sarawak Report

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