M'sian star Michelle Yeoh to co-produce TV series on 1MDB scandal

Based on the best-selling "Billion Dollar Whale" book.

Jean Chien Tay | November 26, 2021, 12:20 PM

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Malaysian movie star Michelle Yeoh will be one of the producers for a television series that is based on the book "Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World", according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The New York Times best-seller and Financial Times 2018 Book of the Year documents the 1MDB state investment fund scandal.

The series will be co-produced by Yeoh alongside the hit Netflix series "House of Cards" creator Beau Willimon and his partner Jordan Tappis.

The co-financier for "Crazy Rich Asians" -- SK Global -- will also be financing the series with Willimon and Tappis's production company, Westward Productions. Together, they will oversee all stages of development and production as well.

Jho Low, the mastermind behind 1MDB scandal

The book, written by award-winning Wall Street Journal reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, is centred on the Malaysian fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or better known as Jho Low.

Low is accused by the U.S. government of being the mastermind behind the theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB, The Star reported.

According to the book's excerpt, Low used the money to finance elections, purchase luxury real estate, throw champagne-drenched parties, and even invest in Hollywood films like "The Wolf of Wall Street".

Leonardo Di Caprio and Jho Low at the French premiere of The Wolf of Wall Street. (Image via Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)

Low has allegedly paid Hollywood celebrities to accompany him on "dates" as well -- he was photographed partying with socialite Paris Hilton at St Tropez, a famous town in France. American model Emily Ratajkowski also claimed that Low paid her US$25,000 (S$34,200) to go with him to the Super Bowl, Malay Mail reported.

In 2018, Low's US$250 million (S$342 million) superyacht was seized off the coast of Bali, and in October 2019, he agreed to return assets worth over US$700 million (S$979 million).

Low's whereabouts unknown

In a parliament session on Nov. 16, Malaysia's Minister of Home Affairs Hamzah Zainudin admitted that the authorities had no knowledge of Low's whereabouts, despite the "Red Notice" on Low's head issued by Interpol, Sinar Harian reported.

He added that Singapore and the U.S., who filed court cases against Low, have also been unable to locate the Malaysian fugitive.

Najib implicated

The 1MDB scandal is believed to be a contributing factor to the defeat of former prime minister Najib Razak's political party in the 2018 election, after he was implicated in the case, Bloomberg reported.

According to Reuters, 1MDB was set up by the ex-prime minister in 2009.

The U.S. said about US$4.5 billion  (S$6.16 billion) was stolen from 1MDB in a scheme which involved Najib, high-level officials of 1MDB, Goldman Sachs executives, and several others.

On July 28, 2020, Najib was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million (S$68.25 million) for crimes related to the state investment fund, Malay Mail reported.

The 68-year-old was found guilty on seven charges including three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering, and one count of abuse of power.

Najib is currently appealing his conviction, according to Malaysiakini.

Yeoh voiced support for Najib in the past

In 2018, Yeoh was mocked after securing film rights to the “Billion Dollar Whale” book, due to her previous shows of support to former prime minister Najib Razak, Malay Mail reported.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Yeoh attended an election rally in April 2013, in support of Najib’s ruling coalition at the time -- Barisan Nasional (BN).

Yeoh’s father, Yeoh Kian Teik is a longtime member of the Malaysian Chinese Association, which is one of the political parties within the BN coalition.

She reportedly said Najib was a leader “who has done so many good things and will do more” at the rally.

“I hope from the bottom of my heart that he will remain as the prime minister and I ask all of you to give him a strong mandate,” the Ipoh-born actress added.

Her comments reportedly drew flak from social media users at the time.

Malaysian cartoonist Zunar also condemned the actress for changing her stance in a matter of months, according to Malaysiakini.

Additionally, the executive director of the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism called her a “cheap opportunist” and questioned her integrity.

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