Defamation lawyers in London representing a playboy financier have sent threatening letters to bookstores around the world in an attempt to block the distribution of a new book detailing his alleged involvement in one of the biggest financial scandals in the history.
activists said that the decision to threaten the distributors of a book instead of the publisher or author could be seen as an attempt to "short-circuit the legal process" around the defamation law and run the risk of setting a precedent that would intimidate the booksellers.
Billion Dollar Whale by Wall Street Journal reporters Bradley Hope and Tom Wright – describes how the government of the United States accused Malaysian financier Jho Low of planning the theft of billions of dollars of the Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB, which was sent to bank accounts in Switzerland, Singapore and the Virgin Islands.
It has been widely reported that Low, 36, faces charges of money laundering in absentia in Malaysia and is the subject of a red Interpol notice.
Low insists that he has not violated any law, is not guilty of fraud and is not being investigated. His lawyers say that the accusations in the book are defamatory and totally false.
Billion Dollar Whale has received positive reviews in the United States, where it will be published next week. He alleges that Low won the confidence of the Malaysian prime minister in befriending his son, evaded the main Wall Street banks to divert funds from the investment organization and used the money to live a life of excessive parties with celebrities and buy expensive properties. Low has always maintained that his wealth was a family heirloom.
Low, who was educated in the United Kingdom at Harrow School, later helped finance the film The Wolf of Wall Street and was personally thanked by Leonardo DiCaprio for the stage of the Golden Globes 2011.
However, Billion Dollar Whale has been effectively blocked from distribution in the United Kingdom after a legal campaign supported by the Low & # 39; s Law based on London Signature Schillings.
United States moves to suspend legal offer for 1MDB as Malaysia takes possession
Although Low apparently has not initiated legal action against the publisher of the book Hachette, or its authors, The Guardian letters seen on Schillings letterhead that have been sent to independent bookstores in Britain and around the world in an apparent attempt to prevent them from being available for public purchase.
The letters sent to the bookstores claim that the decision of some to publish a synopsis of the book constituted a defamatory defamation of Low.
Schillings wrote to a bookseller to say it was "surprising" that the store had published a description of Billion Dollar Whale on its website, and warned the book seller individual that is "Now that we notice that there is likely to be serious defamatory material in the subject book."
"We are concerned about hearing reports from vendors of threatened libraries or attempts to prevent the public from reading a book," a spokesperson said. for the American publishers of the book Hachette.
"Hope and Wright are journalists of the highest caliber and we support the book, it will be available in bookstores, in many countries, on Tuesday."
The authors claimed that Low and his law firm did not cooperate with the book and instead were "threatening the small bookstores and distributors, which is an affront to the freedom of speech."
Malaysian fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho & # 39; stayed in exclusive apartments in Hong Kong before the trip to Macao & # 39 ;, despite Interpol's red notice about the 1MDB corruption scandal
United Kingdom, parliament took explicit measures in section 10 of the Defamation Law 2013 to end the selection of booksellers who were not editors or authors unless it was not reasonably possible to take action against the author or publisher.
Schillings have focused on the publication of the synopsis of booksellers as a way to put pressure on book distribution.
The bill also highlights how the legal world of London remains the center of reputation management services for the world's super rich. .
Schillings demanded that individual booksellers commit in writing to never sell the book, detail proposals to compensate Low for the publication of the synopsis, and provide "reimbursement of legal costs." The defamation law firm also told the book sellers that if they did not receive an answer, they would have no choice but to initiate a legal process against the individual bookstore.
Not all legal warnings have been from Schillings. Jon Page, of the Sydney-based book seller Boomerang Books, said he had received two emails and a letter from a local Australian law firm, which used language similar to Schillings letters: "I feel the lawyer is blowing smoke so that the booksellers remove the book even if it is not necessary, we are not going to remove the book from the sale. "
No publisher in the United Kingdom would agree to publish the book because of the defamation law in the United Kingdom, according to a source with knowledge of the legal issues surrounding its publication. As a result of this decision and the legal campaign, it is almost impossible to obtain a copy in the United Kingdom.
The listings of Amazon UK, Waterstones, Foyles, WH Smiths and many independent bookstores have recently been removed. .
Clare Rewcastle-Brown, a British investigative journalist who originally exposes the 1MDB scandal, has also received legal letters from Schilings about her separate book on history, The Sarawak Report which was also released this week .
Robert Sharp of English PEN, the group for the free speech campaign that co-founded Libel's reform campaign, said that Low's lawyers' decision to address the booksellers was very disturbing.
"This is surprising, worrying, terrible precedent," he said.
He argued that by focusing on the synopses, "the effect of these legal letters is to short-circuit the legal process, by putting booksellers in an impossible position."
After contacting Low for comments, The Guardian received a response from Schillings, who said they could not confirm whether Low was a customer of them: "We do not talk about customers or issues, we do not confirm or deny if any individual or entity is a customer of the company. "