How 1MDB fugitive Jho Low tried to bargain for his freedom

In a series of conversations, the so-called mastermind behind the Malaysian financial scandal tries to avoid justice.

Jho Low

Malaysia’s $4.5bn 1MDB scandal brought down the country’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, and in July saw him convicted and sentenced to 12 years in jail, subject to an appeal, in the first of several trials over his role in looting the fund.

International investment bank Goldman Sachs, often regarded as untouchable, has also been brought to heel, charged with bribing corrupt foreign officials to win 1MDB business and forced to pay out billions of dollars to financial regulators around the world, including in Malaysia and the United States.

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But authorities are yet to reel in perhaps the biggest fish, the man who potentially holds all the secrets to exactly how much money was stolen, who took it and who called the shots.

Dubbed the “Billion Dollar Whale” by Wall Street Journal authors, Bradley Hope and Tom Wright, the alleged mastermind of the 1MDB criminal scam is Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho. Wanted by Malaysia, the United States and Singapore, he has been on the run, out of sight and silent, for almost five years.

His only public presence is his official website, jho-low.com, where written statements protesting his innocence are posted by his lawyers.

But now in Al Jazeera’s special investigation, Jho Low: Hunt For A Fugitive , he can be heard for the first time, desperately trying to strike a deal with the Malaysian government to avoid going to jail.

Borrowing billions

Recordings of Jho Low featured in the programme, obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera, are of a series of extraordinarily revealing phone conversations he had with the former Malaysian government, led by Mahathir Mohamad.

Jho Low--BLOOMBERG

They took place in the weeks and months immediately after the Mahathir-led coalition’s landslide victory against Najib Razak in May 2018. In them, the fugitive betrays fellow conspirators, offers others, also on the run, as potential witnesses in 1MDB-related cases and complains about the mounting costs of legal representation. His sense of entitlement and lack of remorse are on full display.

“I don’t believe there’s any wrongdoing,” he says and then goes on to suggest he merely borrowed the billions from 1MDB to buy himself, among other things, luxury real estate around the world, art masterpieces, a private jet and a mega-yacht, not to mention millions of dollars worth of Christal champagne.

“All these ultimately were loans, directly or indirectly, but, ultimately, I think the time has come, we want to assist in repatriating these assets back in return for cooperating and moving on with life without, you know, being prosecuted,” he asserts.

‘It’s comical’

Former FBI special agent, Debra LaPrevotte, who was involved in the initial stages of the 1MDB investigation and is now a senior investigator for anti-kleptocracy NGO The Sentry, dismisses Jho Low outright.

“If there were no wrongdoing, people wouldn’t be giving back the assets, right? There would be no assets to be seized. It’s comical. It’s like, if I keep saying the lie, maybe somebody will believe me,” she says.

Bill McMurry, the FBI Special Agent who led the 1MDB investigation from 2015 until recently and who now works with the 5 Stones Intelligence company, is in no doubt about Jho Low’s guilt.

“We’re very confident that we will be able to prove Jho Low’s involvement and his position in this scheme,” he says.

‘Half a billion dollars’ worth of jewellery

Jho Low puts the blame for the 1MDB heist firmly on former Prime Minister Najib, who was also finance minister at the time billions were stolen from the sovereign wealth fund, claiming, “I have no authority to make any decision … It’s a pretty known fact that … all the approvals have to be approved by the minister of finance.”

joe lo yacht

He goes on to add support to the findings of the US Department of Justice that most of the more than $1bn that arrived in Najib Razak’s personal bank account was from 1MDB and not a gift from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah, as the former prime minister continues to claim.

“The reality is, it is true that King Abdullah actually agreed to give [a] donation to the PM but that was the small portion of a larger portion,” Jho Low says.

But perhaps the most stunning claim Jho Low makes about Najib is the amount of 1MDB money spent on jewellery for the former prime minister’s wife, Rosmah Mansor. The US Department of Justice documents in detail Jho Low’s purchase of a $27m pink diamond for Rosmah, but according to the fugitive, there was a lot more bought for her.

In fact, he says, “north of half a billion dollars” worth. “That was a huge amount,” he adds.

Abu Dhabi’s involvement

Jho Low then turns on 1MDB’s business partners in the Middle East. The Abu Dhabi government has been silent when it comes to its involvement in the 1MDB scandal, but the alleged mastermind of the financial scam claims the capital of the United Arab Emirates was complicit.

“The reality is, Abu Dhabi people did take money. The discussion I left off with them is, look, whatever I settle with the DOJ [Department of Justice] that is used to pay 1MDB bonds, you should all match the same amount, which is probably close to a billion dollars,” he says.

joe lo yacht

At various times during the phone calls, Jho Low discloses that he is in China and discusses the possibility of a rendezvous in Hong Kong or Macau. But then when Malaysia’s 1MDB investigators set up a meeting in Macau, he flees to the United Arab Emirates the day before.

“Because of the whole warrant of arrest, you know, effectively the UAE folks didn’t think it was safe, so I [have] just gotten into Dubai,” he reveals and goes on to explain how the UAE is “ultra-paranoid now, so I think it’s going to be challenging for me to get any clearance to meet”.

‘High-level government assistance’

Jho Low has two Interpol Red Notices against him issued by Singapore in 2016 and Malaysia in June 2018 as well as an active US arrest warrant. He has also had his Malaysian passport and the passports he bought from St Kitts and Cyprus cancelled, but it seems his ability to move around has not been curtailed.

Prior to the 2018 Malaysian election, he flew in and out of Thailand regularly on private jets. In September 2019 he reportedly flew to Kuwait.

joe lo yacht

Al Jazeera has seen official flight clearance documents confirming earlier reports by the Hong Kong-based Asia Times, that in November 2019 he flew on a Gulfstream jet from Bangkok to Dubai stopping off for three days in India’s Ahmedabad. According to the documents, he was travelling on a previously undisclosed passport from another Caribbean nation, Grenada.

Despite the Interpol Red Notices against Jho Low, Malaysian police say they were not notified by authorities that he had arrived in or departed from these countries.

Bill McMurry tells Al Jazeera that the only way Jho Low has been able to continue to travel “is through corruption and through extremely high-level government assistance”.

But the former FBI special agent still holds out hope of harpooning the whale. “If he does have the full resources of one or more governments to assist him to maintain his status as a fugitive, it can be difficult to get them, but not impossible,” he ventures.

The Malaysian police have categorically stated that they know Jho Low is living in Macau, but China strongly refutes this. Separate sources in both Malaysia and Macau confirmed to Al Jazeera that the fugitive has been living in Asia’s gambling capital since at least February 2018 in a house owned by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party.

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Super-yacht Tranquility at sea

Superyacht linked to Jho Low and 1MDB scandal for sale again, for an extra $74m

The Tranquility, seized by authorities and sold for a ‘bargain’ $126m in April, is back on market after stint as celebrity hangout

A superyacht once owned by Jho Low, a fugitive at the centre of Malaysia’s 1MDB financial scandal , has been put back on the market after a few months as a celebrity party venue.

The vessel, now named Tranquility, is being sold for US$200m, an increase of more than $70m on its previous price tag. It is currently owned by the Genting Group, a Malaysian conglomerate with business interests in real estate, hospitality, plantations and energy supply.

The firm bought the 91.5-metre yacht from the Malaysian government for $126m , which was about half its original purchase price, after it was seized by Indonesian authorities off the coast of Bali in 2018.

Previously named Equanimity, the yacht was owned by Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, 37, better known as Jho Low. He has been accused of masterminding the looting hundreds of millions of dollars from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB . Low is in hiding, believed by many to be in China. He has previously said that he has not broken any laws.

Former prime minister Najib Razak, 66, is currently on trial in Kuala Lumpur for 1MDB-related charges.

Tranquility typifies Low’s super-luxury, celebrity-packed lifestyle . It features a gym, massage room, grand piano, swimming pool, sauna and “beach club” section for socialising. Winch Design, an exclusive British firm, designed the interiors.

Before moving to make a sale profit on the vessel, Genting rented it to super-rich clients at a cost of $1.2m a week. US celebrity Kylie Jenner hired it for her birthday celebrations.

Before going into hiding, Low used his wealth to move in similar circles to the reality TV star. He became friends with Paris Hilton and mixed with Hollywood’s film industry elite. In 2018, the producers of Martin Scorsese’s hit film The Wolf of Wall Street paid back $60m to the US government after allegations the film was funded with money stolen from 1MDB.

In April this year, when Genting acquired the yacht, Low spoke through his publicist of his anger at its “bargain-basement” $126m sale price.

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Boat of the Week: Inside the Gorgeous 280-Foot Superyacht Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Just Made Famous

The couple made global news after reuniting aboard this $130 million superyacht. a look inside their private retreat., howard walker, howard walker's most recent stories.

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Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck and the 280-foot superyacht "Valerie"

The tabloids have been on fire this week with revelations that superstar Jennifer Lopez has been celebrating her 52nd birthday in style, cruising the Mediterranean with on-again beau, actor Ben Affleck, aboard a stunning superyacht. J.Lo’s Instagram photos show the reunited Bennifer in top form.

The power couple has also been snapped hanging out in tony Saint-Tropez, enjoying retail therapy in Monaco and strolling the romantic island of Capri, all from their private getaway, the 280-foot Lürssen-built Valerie .

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Until now, little has been known about the 280-foot superyacht. But after 10 years of being the private retreat of a Ukrainian billionaire, Valerie is now on the market for about $130 million, or €110 million.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jennifer Lopez (@jlo)

Until a buyer is found, it’s available for rent through Monaco-based Dynamiq Sales & Charter–which is also handling the sale–at a whopping $1.12 million a week. J.Lo is believed to have been the first to have booked.

The superyacht’s sleek, timeless lines are from the drawing board of Norwegian naval starchitect Espen Øino. He’s responsible for such superyacht icons as the 426-foot Flying Fox , the late Paul Allen’s 413-foot Octopus , and soon to be the world’s largest superyacht, the 600-foot REV Ocean.

“ Valerie is still considered by many to be one of the most beautiful boats we have done with Lürssen,” Monaco-based Øino told Robb Report.

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Made This 280-foot Superyacht Valerie Famous

The upper pool gives a protected–and paparazzi-proof–area for guests to lounge.  Courtesy Dynamiq/YachtShot

With an impressive volume of 2,755 gross tonnes, the yacht has no shortage of interior space, with accommodations for 17 guests in nine cabins, including a truly hedonistic master suite. When Lopez and Affleck were aboard, they were pampered by Valerie’s crew of 27.

One of the multitude of design highlights of the yacht is its huge, private upper deck. Up top, there’s a 20-foot swimming pool, the inevitable hot tub, and a football field of lounge pads.

Steps away, protected from prying eyes and paparazzi lenses by towering sides, is a dining table for 10, complete with musical fountains that light up at night.

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Made This 280-foot Superyacht Valerie Famous

Art-deco styling defines Valerie ‘s interior.  Courtesy Dynamiq/YachtShot

For additional sunning and dipping, Valerie’s vast forward deck, with a touch-and-go helipad big enough to land a Eurocopter EC130 or Bell 407, has another pool and a semi-circle of sunpads. The deck can also double as a golf driving range.

The sumptuous interior is the work of London-based designers Pascale Reymond and Andrew Langton, of Reymond Langton Design. They specified 7.5-foot-high ceilings and walls of full-height windows to provide full-on sea views.

The living areas have a formal, Art Deco look and feel, which contrast with the more-relaxed outdoor spaces. The fine detailing inside includes soft leather wall panels—even the elevator is leather-lined—wood flooring incorporating an intricate inlay, and the pièce de résistance: real butterflies set into brass detailing.

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Made This 280-foot Superyacht Valerie Famous

Who needs a formal dining room inside when there’s a dining table for 14—with mirrored surface—in a protected area of the cockpit.  Courtesy Dynamiq/YachtShot

An equally jaw-dropping feature of the lounge is the floating Schimmel Pegasus grand piano, originally conceived by the eccentric German industrial designer Luigi Colani. The instrument costs around $100,000.

One other headline feature, especially for the fitness-focused Lopez, is Valerie’s wellness suite. It comes with a steam room and Hamman, and state-of-the-art Italian-made Technogym fitness equipment. After a hard workout, close by is a starlight-ceilinged massage room and beauty salon.

Instead of a stuffy formal dining room inside, the owner specified an alfresco dining area on the main deck just outside the salon. There’s seating for 14 around the inlaid, mirror-varnished oval table, with panoramic views over the aft deck.

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Made This 280-foot Superyacht Valerie Famous

The beach club, with stairs that lead into the water.   Courtesy Dynamiq/YachtShot

To make sure the yacht can sprint from Monaco to Capri in time for sunrise, the steel-hulled Valerie is powered by twin 2,700 hp MTU V-16 engines sitting in a cavernous, double-height engine room. They deliver a top speed of 20 mph, though cruising at a more relaxed 14 mph, she has an easy transatlantic range of 6,000 nautical miles.

With a major refit in 2019 that saw fresh, bright-white hull paint and a comprehensive systems overhaul, plus a 10-year Lloyds survey completed in May this year, Valerie is reckoned to be as good as new.

“This is a rare opportunity for someone to acquire one of the most impressive and impeccably maintained superyachts on the market, without waiting years for a new construction,” Maria Dobroserdova, Dynamiq Sales & Charter broker tells Robb Report .

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Made This 280-foot Superyacht Valerie Famous

A massage room in the yacht’s wellness center.  Courtesy Dynamiq/YachtShot

By the end of this week, maybe J.Lo and Ben might end-up loving the yacht so much they’ll write a check.

Check out more images of the beautiful Valerie below:

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Made This 280-foot Superyacht Valerie Famous

Courtesy Dynamiq/YachtShot

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Made This 280-foot Superyacht Valerie Famous

Courtesy Courtesy Dynamiq/YachtShot

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Made This 280-foot Superyacht Valerie Famous

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Fugitive jho low gets 10-year prison sentence in absentia from kuwait court.

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International fugitive Jho Low has been sentenced in absentia to 10 years in a Kuwait prison for his role in laundering a minimum of $1 billion connected to $4.5 billion that was stolen from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund known as 1MDB , according to reports.

The $1 billion laundered through Kuwait was paid in Chinese currency, so it stayed out of the US banking system — “and out of reach of the Justice Department and its investigators,” a source close to the case told The Post. 

The son of Kuwait’s former prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and a third man who went to the prestigious Wharton business school with Low, Hamad Al Wazan, were also sentenced to 10 years each in jail. 

Two other men were also sentenced Bachar Kiwan, who now lives in Paris and got 10 years, and Kuwaiti lawyer Saud Abdelmohsan, who was sentenced to seven years. 

It’s not clear whether any of those sentenced will serve their time. Low is currently believed to be living in China under Beijing’s protection. 

Leonardo DiCaprio with Jho Low in 2013.

“The sentencing shows that Kuwaiti authorities are serious about prosecuting money laundering activities even if they are committed by people related to high ranking officials,” the source told the Post. ” 

The New York Post was the first to report on Low and Al Wazan back in 2009.  

Low used stolen Malaysian money to buy art, real estate, diamonds, and designer clothes and handbags for people including the actor Leo DiCaprio and ex-models Miranda Kerr and Kate Upton . In addition, Low invested the stolen 1MDB funds in Hollywood films like “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The news of Low’s sentencing in Kuwait comes as Grammy-winning musician Pras Michel stands trial this week in Washington, DC, in part for allegedly accepting $100 million of stolen money from Low and using it for a variety of criminal plots.

Those include an alleged lobbying campaign to stop the Justice Department from investigating Low and, separately, to get the US government to “return” a Chinese exile and Steve Bannon ally named Miles Kwok or Guo Wengui, to China.

The federal government recently arrested Guo in New York and charged him with orchestrating a separate $1 billion fraud.

Michel and Guo maintain their innocence.

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A Yacht, a Monet, a See-Through Piano: The U.S. Collects on a Fugitive’s Shopping Spree

joe lo yacht

By Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Stevenson

  • Dec. 9, 2018

The van Gogh and the Monet are safely in storage in Switzerland. The Oscar that once belonged to Marlon Brando is in a federal warehouse in Texas. Those were easy enough to corral.

But when the $250 million yacht was finally captured in Bali, the United States government couldn’t let it bob in the water unattended, so it had to pay for a crew. The $35 million Bombardier jet has been grounded, but it needed an engine test costing up to $25,000.

And no one is quite sure what to do with the see-through grand piano now sitting in a supermodel’s Malibu home. It won’t fit through the door.

All of the items, and many more, had been bought by a flamboyant Malaysian financier named Jho Low , who prosecutors say helped siphon billions of dollars from a Malaysian government investment fund, then went on a colossal spending spree. It is one of the largest international kleptocracy cases the United States has ever pursued.

It is so expansive that just tracking down, retrieving and maintaining the loot has become a complex multinational operation in itself.

Court documents and interviews describe a recovery effort that involves half a dozen federal agencies, a bevy of contractors and investigators in countries including Switzerland, Luxembourg and Malaysia.

Its targets include more than a dozen properties in New York, California and London, including a $31 million condominium in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, the Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills hotel and a $17.5 million mansion in Beverly Hills that came with a gold-tipped pyramid floating in a reflecting pool.

The process has been slowed because of the pending criminal case, which itself is lagging because Mr. Low, 37, is a fugitive believed to be hiding in China. There are also thorny legal issues because Mr. Low and some of the other defendants have denied wrongdoing and are challenging the forfeitures.

Several of the items are owned by trusts, and Mr. Low “does not consider it proper for any government to seize property belonging to the trusts or himself,” said Robin Rathmell, Mr. Low’s lawyer.

The United States took the lead in the investigation because it has been cracking down on the flow of illegal money through the American financial system, and because until a few months ago, Malaysia’s own government was being run by the very people accused of ripping it off.

The fund at the center of the investigation, called the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund or 1MDB, was supposed to benefit ordinary Malaysians. It raised billions of dollars from banks and borrowed from investors, ostensibly to finance projects like a joint venture with a Saudi oil company and the purchase of power plants.

But prosecutors say 1MDB became a “massive, brazen and blatant” money-laundering scheme, in which billions were diverted into the bank accounts of senior officials, including the former prime minister Najib Razak, his family and associates and Mr. Low.

The scandal led to the ouster of Mr. Najib. It also has ensnarled Goldman Sachs , which helped 1MDB raise money; a Justice Department employee who pleaded guilty to helping Mr. Low funnel money into the United States; and Elliott Broidy , a top fund-raiser for President Trump who was paid to lobby the administration to stop the investigation. (Mr. Broidy is not accused of any crime.)

Laundering the money, prosecutors say, involved a complex network of opaque bank accounts and shell companies registered in exotic locations like the British Virgin Islands.

But the idea was simple: Use 1MDB as a vehicle to draw in big money.

And then spend it.

Some $200 million was used to buy artwork. There was a 22-carat pink diamond necklace worth $27.3 million, said to have been given to Mr. Najib’s wife. (Her lawyers say that while she saw the necklace, which has gone missing, she never actually received it.)

Tens of millions of dollars went toward financing Hollywood films including “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Daddy’s Home” through a production studio called Red Granite Pictures, which was owned by Riza Aziz, Mr. Najib’s stepson. Red Granite has settled with the government for $60 million without admitting wrongdoing.

A quarter billion was spent on a custom-built mega-yacht with a movie theater, helicopter pad and enough space for dozens of crew members. Indonesian authorities said the boat’s transponder was turned off at times, making it difficult for the F.B.I. to track it, but the yacht, called the Equanimity, was finally seized in Bali this year. The United States then staffed it with a crew until it was turned over to Malaysia’s custody.

Mr. Low, who had a self-proclaimed taste for the very finest things, also used some of the money to lavish gifts on celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and the Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr, prosecutors say.

In 2014, Mr. Low bought the clear-acrylic grand piano from Crystal Music Company in the Netherlands and had it delivered to Ms. Kerr in Malibu. Peter Tol, the company’s founder, declined to discuss the price but said that his custom pieces now cost from $170,000 to upward of $1 million.

It has been a centerpiece of Ms. Kerr’s home. She has been photographed lounging on its lid in a Giorgio Armani gown and has been recorded tapping out a simple song called “The Flea Waltz.”

Mark Fabiani, a lawyer for Ms. Kerr, said she is happy to relinquish the piano. But it’s not clear that it is worth the effort to get it out.

“If you move it, you might damage it, and then you have to restore it,” said Michael Case, the asset forfeiture coordinator for the United States Marshals Service in Manhattan, speaking generally about such operations.

This extraction would be especially complicated.

When Mr. Tol delivered the piano, he was horrified to learn it would be left on an outdoor deck, protected only by an overhang.

“This was hurting my soul very much,” he said. “I strongly advised them to close that area.”

Ms. Kerr followed his advice. But those new walls are a problem for the government, which believes it would have to do some demolition to get the piano out, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly. Then a very expensive house would have to be repaired.

So for now, the piano stays. Other tokens of Mr. Low’s esteem have been easier to retrieve. Ms. Kerr handed over a substantial amount of jewelry, including an 11.71-carat heart-shaped diamond and a pair of 11-carat diamond earrings.

Mr. DiCaprio, too, has relinquished his gifts, including Picasso’s “ Nature Morte au Crâne de Taureau ” (Still Life With Bull’s Head) and a collage called “Redman One” by Jean-Michel Basquiat, both of which he had stored in Switzerland.

He also gave up Brando’s 1954 Oscar for “On the Waterfront.” According to “ Billion Dollar Whale ,” a book about Mr. Low by two Wall Street Journal reporters, the statue had disappeared from Mr. Brando’s Hollywood home; Mr. Low bought it for $600,000 from a film memorabilia dealer. Unfortunately for the government, when any post-1950 Oscar is put up for sale, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has the right to buy it for $1, a spokeswoman for the academy said.

In Malaysia itself, the haul has been immense. Just days after Mr. Najib was voted out, the police raided six residences connected to him. They seized 35 bags of cash in 26 currencies, and it took 22 officers three days to determine their full value — about $30 million. There were bags of gold (25), Hermes handbags (272) and watches (423). Everything is being stored in Kuala Lumpur at the Malaysian central bank.

“The numbers were just too huge for us to do the accounting on the premises,” said Amar Singh, who led the asset seizures for the Royal Malaysian Police.

Mr. Najib has denied wrongdoing, and Farhan Shafee, a member of his legal team, said, “As far as we can see and as far as the documents provided show, the assets that were seized have nothing to do with the charges that have been brought.”

As for Mr. Tol, the piano maker, he said he felt terrible if he had unwittingly accepted money “destined for the normal people of Malaysia.”

“I don’t like it,” he said. “It is not my way of life.”

Vickey Barron, a real estate broker who sold a $51 million penthouse in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood to another man later implicated in the 1MDB case, Khadem al-Qubaisi, recalled the transaction as a blur. (Mr. al-Qubaisi has been jailed in Abu Dhabi since 2016, making it difficult to defend himself, his lawyer said.)

An entourage of about half a dozen people had zipped through a tour of the apartment, and within a day, a representative called to say they would take it.

She called it one of the strangest deals she’d ever done. “I take longer to buy a pair of sneakers,” she said, “than he took to buy the apartment.”

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting from Bangkok. Alain Delaquérière and Doris Burke contributed research.

Inside J.Lo’s 52nd Birthday French Yacht Celebration

preview for Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s Relationship History

Here’s that kiss:

jennifer lopez ben affleck pda insta debut

Also, if you need a laugh (and you appreciate a good New England reference), there’s this one:

Per The Daily Mail , Affleck flew J.Lo to Saint-Tropez on a flight that reportedly cost $200,000. They spent her big day on a mega-yacht that the Mail said was an estimated $130 million yacht.

Yesterday marked the couple’s first kiss on Instagram, but it was actually not the occasion that marked their Instagram official status. Last Thursday, they made their Instagram-official debut in a roundabout way .

The renewed couple showed up on Leah Remini’s Instagram in a video montage from her birthday party.

jennifer lopez and ben affleck

Yes, Remini is in the image, but it was the first time the couple showed up on social media in a photo that wasn’t taken by paparazzi in 2021 or snapped in the early aughts. Very exciting stuff!

Early this month, Lopez gave an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1, in which she talked about how happy she is right now.

“I’m super happy,” she said. “I know people are always wondering. How are you? What’s going on? Are you okay? This is it. I’ve never been better. And I want my people who care about me because I care about them so much, to know that I’ve really gotten to a place in my life where I'm great on my own. And I think once you get to that place, then amazing things happen to you that you never imagine in your life happening again. And so that is where I’m at. And I love all the love that’s coming my way right now and all of the, the good wishes. And I just want everybody to know that it’s the best time. It’s the best time of my life.”

She did not specifically reference Affleck, but the context of their relationship was definitely there .

Later this month, she also gave an interview to Ebro Darden for Apple Music 1 , where she made reference to her breakup with Alex Rodriguez :

“Once you get to the point where you're like, ‘This is not right for me, or this doesn’t feel good, or I need to make an adjustment here. This is not really about anybody else but me.’ Once you do that, stuff starts falling into place.”

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The 98.4m superyacht Aviva was built for British businessman Joe Lewis who owns Tottenham Hotspur Football Club

Aviva: Inside the 98.4m Abeking & Rasmussen flagship yacht

The owner of Aviva challenged his design team to build a yacht around a padel tennis court — and 98m, 4,966GT and a mere three years later, she was launched.

She’s big — let’s get that out of the way. At 98.4 metres,  Aviva  became the 46th longest yacht in the world when she was delivered by  Abeking & Rasmussen  in 2017, and there are very few boats of her length that can match her for volume.

Her 17.24 metre beam is so generous that the designers pulled in the bridge deck superstructure to add side decks — improving crew circulation and refining the profile — because “we just didn’t need that much beam”.

They were right: spaces on board are magnificently expansive, from guest suites the size of the master suite on a 50 metre to an owner’s wardrobe that is, designer Andrew Langton notes quite seriously, “bigger than my house in France”. The fact that scale sits fairly low down on the list of Aviva ’s extraordinary features speaks to the imagination and belief-beggaring ambition of this project.

Aviva is the third yacht of her name delivered to owner Joe Lewis, British businessman and major shareholder in Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. The first, a 62 metre Winch design, was built at Feadship in the Netherlands; the second, a 68 metre Reymond Langton design , at Abeking & Rasmussen on the banks of the Weser river in Lemwerder, near Bremen.

For his grandest project yet Lewis returned to Abeking. “They were, surprisingly, much less conservative than other people. Maybe it’s because of the military stuff they do,” says Toby Silverton, head of design on the project, working with Reymond Langton, and who was also involved in Lewis’s two previous projects.

The yard’s biggest project had been 82.48 metre Secret and to take on Aviva it extended its build shed to accommodate yachts of up to 125 metres — a bold move into a larger size category. And its courage didn’t end there.

“Build a big yacht around a padel tennis court was the main brief, I guess,” says the yard’s project manager Andreas Hering, with admirable understatement. “In three years.”

  • How 74.5m Abeking & Rasmussen Elandess sprang from a blank sheet of paper

A project of this size might easily take five years, even if the yard already had a shed big enough for the purpose. And this was a highly unusual project. Design was accelerated too: the complex interior was penned in six months, when they would have liked a year; and the exterior in just one month, when it might more comfortably have taken six.

Knowing that makes Aviva ’s elegant profile even more impressive. “There was a lot of work to [visually] break up the mass, using facets,” says Langton. “We also tried to keep the lines long, so the sheer line is very long and jumps up forward with a clean line.”

They also minimised the details that act as size references, to disguise the scale. Rub rails are eliminated, stanchions replaced with glass, crew quarters windows are grouped to create long lines of glazing and even the anchor pocket has been elongated and disguised, lest a little square of gleaming stainless gives the game away.

Some upright elements of the silver superstructure were also picked out in a darker shade. “They disappear a bit, which makes the slope of the boat more raked,” says Langton.

The long bow adds to the effect, but the aesthetic is the beneficiary of a practical decision: this boat will roam far and the long covered bow makes it likely to survive the kind of rogue waves that have battered a few cruise ships over the years.

“I talked to the captain of the QE2 who went through a wave, and what happens is all the wheelhouse windows smash, they had four foot of water, you then lose all your instruments and they had no ability to control the boat, communicate or navigate,” says Silverton.

To strengthen Aviva he added extra watertight doors and armoured the two forward VIP cabins and superyacht wheelhouse so that they could be sealed off to save the boat. “You can lose everything on the bridge and you can still navigate and control the boat from the engine room,” he says.

Apart from safety, the main aim of the naval architecture was stability. Before the build of Lewis’s second Aviva , Silverton had been frustrated by a lack of data on how rolling motion affects passengers, so he put 36 people in a motion simulator for three days.

“There’s two things: one is the period of roll and the second is the way it rolls,” he says. “The typical roll period of the 62 metre would be around 7.5-7.8 seconds, one of two roll periods people were particularly upset by. And we found that if it was a soft stop and then a soft movement away again, people were much more tolerant of it.”

The design of the second boat addressed those concerns and the new Aviva ’s hull — patent pending — is an evolution of that. It has a nipped in “waist” which bulges back out below the waterline. This both slows and softens the roll. Her near-vertical bow and narrow sailing boat-like stern (which helps reduce pitching) also aid efficiency.

So much so that they were able to go down two engine sizes from the original spec (she has two MTU 16V4000 M73Ls, which put out 2,880kW each) and still hit 20.3 knots in sea trials. Silverton notes that she runs most comfortably at a zippy 16.5 knots, despite an official cruising speed of 14 knots.

Supplementary electric motors offer smooth manoeuvring and silent 11 knot running at night, while extra solidity comes from MAGLift stabilisers aft and one pair of fin stabilisers forward.

But it is the padel tennis court that lies literally and metaphorically at the heart of this project. This high intensity squash-tennis hybrid is a daily routine for Lewis and his explorations with his previous yachts had been limited to destinations with courts.

“The original idea I had was to put it on the aft end main deck and have folding panels and sliding walls,” says Langton. “It never even entered my head to put it inside, because it’s so big.”

Not only would putting the court at the back have made for a profile that Langton likens to a pick-up truck, but Silverton notes that the court would not have been playable at main-deck level. “You’re way above the roll centre, so it’s moving sideways – humans can’t cope with sideways movement of the ground,” says Silverton. “So we looked at putting it as low down as possible.”

Achieving such a large area in that position was an engineering feat but the results are spectacular. Its dimensions short-circuit spatial understanding — it seems impossible that this towering 6.65 metre tall space could be accommodated in Aviva ’s profile.

But it is, and it functions beautifully. “We’re running along at 19 knots, white horses everywhere, and they’re downstairs playing padel having no idea that there’s any sea at all,” says Silverton.

This sort of intelligent ambition has transformed every space on board into something special. “The owner has been in many businesses – hospitality, hotels – so he really understands how spaces work,” says Silverton.

Apart from strategically placed pantries and concealed crew entrances, there are three massive dumb waiters, a lower deck entrance for loading supplies, a dedicated crew galley and much more. The final GA was version 57.

On the more glamorous side of this equation, the upper saloon is a highly functional family room that’s comfortable, bright and airy. The sofas are extra squashy, and there’s a games table as well as a sculptural Bogányi piano.

The head height is 2.6 metres and nine metres of openable full-height windows run along each side of the room – with balconies. Rather than the usual glass, doors to the aft deck are leather clad, making the room feel more private. In fine weather, with those doors open, glass panels slide out to surround the aft deck dining area, creating one long, protected inside/outside space.

Designing such a huge area without pillars for support was a challenge and the corners are, says Hering, packed with extra structure. “Also, in the ceiling, all the girders are very thick because the unsupported length is just enormous.”

In contrast to this space, the main saloon below is a glamorous introduction to Aviva , up the sweeping superyacht staircase from the swim platform and inside to take in starry pieces from the owner’s art collection from a round of sunken seating. Adding a dash of intrigue there’s a secret cinema forward of the space, behind a hidden door.

The master suite is in the nose of the main deck rather than higher up, for extra stability. It stretches from a full-beam cabin to a massive bathroom centred with a monolithic Corian bathtub (there’s a spa just aft of the cabin for even more serious pampering), to a wardrobe-cum-dressing room of spectacular scale and glamour, inspired by Chanel boutiques.

But while some spaces are grand in scale, others are decidedly intimate. Rather than a dining saloon, there are two art-filled “bistros” on board for cosy meals, and many other small dining areas elsewhere. The owner’s bridge deck office is also modestly proportioned, with a conference room next door for larger meetings.

In terms of interior style, the owner’s brief was for something revolutionary. “He didn’t want anything to be symmetrical, it had to be curvy or organic,” says Langton. “He wanted it to be very different. No wood, nothing traditional.”

From the furniture and fittings to walls and overheads, there is barely a straight line on this boat. That was no mean feat for Abeking & Rasmussen’s outfitter Rodiek, which, as well as building most of the yacht’s bespoke furniture in organic forms, produced undulating wall panels from high density CNC-milled foam. “Five or ten years ago this was only used to do models or moulds for the car industry. It is very expensive,” says Langton.

It is, however, perfect for creating curves. “For this boat we decided to use a lot of new materials, even for the base materials, because of the big curved ceiling spaces,” says Hilmar Westermeyer, COO of Rodiek, who had to buy a new CNC milling machine for the project. Rodiek works only for Abeking & Rasmussen (and vice versa) in a symbiotic relationship.

In terms of the interior styling, the ethos was love it or lose it — at least visually. “This door disappears when it is closed and becomes part of the wall,” says Langton in one of the forward VIPs, swinging it to the latch, where its undulations perfectly meet those on the wall. “You either make a door a feature, make it beautiful, or you make it disappear.” The same goes for handles: those on wardrobes are invisible, but ones used on cabin doors are gnarled and textural, incorporated into a cracked bronze plate “like desert clay”.

“Because we’ve not used any wood, basically the whole interior is a mixture of leather and lacquer, it’s really almost tailored.” Take the artfully stitched cream leather of window frames, or the iridescent shot silk that runs down the broad main deck corridor, printed with a bespoke cartographical motif.

A neutral palette is enriched with precious materials: sunset-toned onyx, vanilla marble, shagreen, shimmering leathers. There are glossy panels dripping with resin and acrylic by Alex Turco in the lobby, and panels of velvet mottled with gold, by Sabina Fay Braxton, above guest beds. Staircases are works of art; one with floating treads like turbine blades, another a leather and glass form that spirals up from the floor.

This interior — where, as Langton puts it, almost every surface has “richness and form” – melts into the deck spaces via visual tricks: organic patterns in the Esthec decking that continue in the interior carpets; or the bar that is half in the main saloon and half on the aft deck, a mirror image joining the two spaces.

The superyacht sundeck is the exterior equivalent of the upper saloon — a comfortable family lounge. This massive space, with sunshine yellow upholstery, runs from a shaded central area for dining, with a projector for movie nights, to an aft sunbathing area with sunpads (with a wedge shape to sit as well as lie) and another forward around a spa pool, set low against a glass windbreak for spectacular views.

This forward end is a cosy space like so many on board. It’s that understanding of usable, enjoyable spaces, of human scale, human comfort and passions that makes Aviva a truly grand design. Those 98 metres just help pack it all on board.

First published in the April 2018 edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

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Luxurylaunches -

Take a look at Joe Lewis’s stunning $250 million superyacht, Aviva, which the Tottenham owner used to bail himself out of trouble. The billionaire loved padel tennis so much that he actually built this 279 feet long vessel around a padel tennis court.

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Joe Lewis’ $250 Million Yacht Sets Sail After He Pays US Fine

  • The Aviva left base in Malta for ports in Albania, Greece
  • Billionaire pledged ship for bail after insider-trading arrest

Aviva anchored in Mugla, Turkey, in 2022.

Joe Lewis ’ superyacht is on the move again after spending most of the past year holed up in a Mediterranean port while the British billionaire faced insider-trading charges in the US.

His 322-foot (98-meter) Aviva — which he put up as collateral for bail — has traveled more than 400 nautical miles from Malta to cities along Albania’s coast as well as the Greek island of Zakynthos since he was sentenced April 4 to three years probation, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Joe Lewis’ $250 million superyacht, ranked among the world’s 25-most valuable, sets sail after he pays US fine

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Joe Lewis’ superyacht is on the move again after spending most of the past year holed up in a Mediterranean port while the British billionaire faced insider-trading charges in the US.

His 322-foot (98-meter) Aviva — which he put up as collateral for bail —  has traveled more than 400 nautical miles from Malta to cities along Albania’s coast as well as the Greek island of Zakynthos since  he was sentenced  April 4 to three years probation, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

After departing Zakynthos earlier this week, the Tavistock Group founder’s yacht was near Kalamata in southern Greece on Thursday morning local time, the data show. It’s the most the roughly $250 million vessel has traveled in about seven months, though it’s unclear if Lewis is on board.

Lewis, 87, pledged his yacht along with his private jet to secure his release following his arrest in July. A few months later, Aviva docked until April 5 in the Maltese capital of Valletta, where it can cost as much as €750 ($800) a night to moor vessels that exceed 75 meters.

Lewis, who was scheduled to have eye surgery in London recently, was prohibited from setting foot on the yacht that has long served as part-residence, part-office while awaiting trial. He was only allowed on board after paying a $5 million fine after sentencing, which he settled soon after the verdict in Manhattan.

A representative for Lewis, who has a net worth of about $7.3 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, declined to comment.

Lewis, whose global empire includes five-star hotels, private lenders and enclaves for the wealthy, launched Aviva in 2017. It includes eight guest suites, a helipad, padel tennis court, spa and a cinema. It ranked among the world’s 25-most valuable superyachts shortly after its launch, alongside those owned by Middle Eastern royals.

The yacht has also displayed works from Lewis’ private art collection, which is valued at more than $1 billion and includes pieces by Picasso, Freud, Klimt and Degas.

Events that authorities say took place on the yacht were a key piece of evidence that prosecutors used against him. 

At dinner one night in September 2019, the billionaire received favorable news about Mirati Therapeutics Inc., an oncology company where he was a major investor, leading him to pass along the tip to a host of people, including the pilots of his private jet, according to US regulators.

Those pilots — Bryan “Marty” Waugh and Patrick O’Connor — were also charged with trading on inside information. O’Connor pleaded guilty to securities fraud and conspiracy and is due to be sentenced in May, while Waugh is fighting the charges.

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