TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO BLAME ANOTHER EVEN MORE SO

Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak, or Fearless Leader, has applied to a United States court to obtain the names of 1Malaysia Development (1MDB) officials who were bribed by Tim Leisner, the former Asian head of Goldman Sachs.
Fearless’ lawyer, the hirsute Scruffy A, had been doing his damnedest to stall the trial of his client because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Fearless is currently being tried for four criminal charges in bribery totalling RM2.28 billion and 21 other charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
Unfortunately, the learned Scruffy’s fishing expedition was dismissed. The judge didn’t budge which, while being good poetry, did little for Fearless’ state of mind as the trial wasn’t delayed in the slightest.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Fearless had already been found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison in an earlier trial. He’d also been fined RM210 million to boot. He faces an additional five years if he fails to pay the fine.
Indeed, everything Fearless had touched during what he liked to recall as his “golden years” seemed to be crumbling into dust.
AmBank, the bank Felonious, Fearless’ ever-mistrustful sidekick, chose for the money laundering operations, had been fined RM2.83 billion as part of a “global settlement” in relation to 1MDB. The fine almost brought the bank to its knees.
Similarly, Deloitte, 1MDB’s auditor at one time, paid RM324 million for neglecting to disclose the agency’s sins of commission. Another auditor KPMG is negotiating its fate.
With so many entities and individuals left burning in their wake, a reasonable man might conclude that Messrs Fearless and Felonious were now repentant and despairingly sitting in sackcloth and ashes, and beating their breasts.
Alas, he would be disappointed.
The flabby Felonious has not been seen since 2018, the same year that French winemakers noticed a huge spike in the sales of champagne in the northern region of Macao.
That was not to say that Felonious had gotten off scot free. By his own standards, he’d bled as well, losing a yacht, a private jet and billions in assets in Malaysia, the US and the United Kingdom.
But the chubby charlatan was nothing if not philosophical. “Easy come, easy go,” shrugged the bovine bandit and concentrated on weightier matters like getting the amount of caviar on his cracker just so.
He was never one to put Descartes before the horse.
It wasn’t as if Fearless’ feet were being held to the fire either. He dispensed advice freely whether people listened or not: they didn’t. He diligently continued to attend Parliament, an act that compelled Scruffy A to plead yet another reason to postpone the trial.
He even put out videos of his exercise regimen – planking and weights. Indeed, it appeared that the only inconvenience dealt to the unflappable Fearless was his conviction, which effectively ruled him out as a candidate in the next general election.
The other thing that had changed was that the dynamic duo had fallen out. Now the main plank of Fearless defence was that it was all Felonious’ fault, and that he’d been merely guilty of a silly, and misplaced, trust in a friend; that he’d been “more sinned against than sinning.”
The idea had come from the learned jurist Scruffy A, whose inspired decision-making stemmed from a long political tradition of blaming others for the really serious errors.
In between flutes of the good stuff, Felonious sympathised because he understood. Had the shoe been on the other foot, he would have done the same.
Thank God it wasn’t, he reflected cheerfully, and decided he could, and would, drink to that.


ENDS

FINALLY, IT’S PROVEN THAT GOLDMAN SUCKS

The felonious fatty, known as Jho Low, had mixed feelings about the whole thing. Quite a “yes and no” type situation. 

On the one hand, he was saddened that Goldman Sachs, a former friend and more-than-willing ally, had been rewarded with a public flogging and fines of over US$5 billion for its role in the 1MDB debacle. 

On the other hand, he felt positively elated and brimming over with what the French term la joie de vivre. “It could have been much, much worse,” he confided to his father in between sips of a delightfully ice-cold 1977 Chardonnay. “It might have been us.” 

His pater, the dashingly-moustached Hairy Low felt a certain disquiet at his son’s use of the pronoun (“us”) but still awarded himself full marks on his prescient foresight of sending his son to study at the prestigious Wharton School in the University of Pennsylvania all those years ago.  

The products of that school were the sort of people most people would want, nay, need to know, reflected the urbane co-conspirator, with a dashing twirl of his moustache.  

But only two were really famous. 

One was the current President of the United States and the other was a very rich and a very sought after Felonious, his beloved son and the ample apple of his aged eyes. 

There was no doubt that Felonious was much sought after but it certainly wasn’t as an after dinner speaker. His erstwhile boss, mentor and help-mate, Fearless Leader, wanted to blame him while Malaysia’s top cop, Abdul Hamid Bador, wanted to jail him.

The US wanted to question him, Singapore wanted to flog him and the banks in Switzerland only wanted to learn at his feet. 

Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff wanted his autograph – he wanted to be just like him when he grew up – while it wasn’t clear what exactly Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman, at the material time when Felonious was Tripping his Blight Fantastic, wanted with the cherubic charlatan. 

But it looked as if there was murder in his eyes. 

Goldman was pilloried after the 2008 Global  Financial Crisis as an archetypal symbol of Wall Street greed: it misleadingly hawked highly dubious mortgage-backed securities as gilt-edged bonds and tried to sell out before the bottom fell out of the market, which added momentum to the downward spiral. 

It paid fines but no one was charged. With Fearless running defence, Felonious might have singlehandedly changed all that. 

Goldman’s costs from the scandal hurtled beyond US$5 billion on Thursday, while a subsidiary pleaded guilty to a US criminal charge for the first time in the firm’s history. 

The parent company entered a deal to spare itself a conviction that could cripple business, by promising to behave.

And both CEO David Solomon and predecessor Lloyd Blankfein got a rare rebuke: they have to give up pay, attaching personal accountability to two of the industry’s most visible leaders for a scandal spanning the globe.

The accords lift a legal cloud that formed during Blankfein’s tenure and remained through the handoff to Solomon two years ago. 

It could account for the look in Blankfein’s eyes: he had always maintained he’d never even met the fat fraud. 

Get over it, advised the ever-philosophical Felonious. He was eager to get on with a new scheme.

But for some strange reason the Chinese banks seemed reluctant to give him credit for his ideas. 

HISTORY IS WRITTEN BY THE VICTORS

You might say Fearless Leader was back. 

Or maybe he never left. For a former leader with a 12-year prison sentence hanging like the kris of Hang Lekiu over his greying head, Fearless seemed remarkably cheerful as he tramped the hills and dales of Sabah campaigning for the Barisan Nasional (BN). 

Indefatigable was the word to describe Fearless and, watching from his safe haven not in China, Felonious aka Jho the Low, an erstwhile aide-de-camp and not-so-trusty sidekick, whistled admiringly. 

While not safely ensconced in China, Felonious was also rich beyond the dreams of avarice. The fact that Fearless wasn’t safe at all was what elicited the whistle of admiration in the first place but Felonious was nothing if not philosophical. One out of two was still good, shrugged the ample artist. 

“You can’t have everything,” concluded the round robber before turning his attention to more weightier matters of state like how much he had to pay the authorities for another year of not staying in China. It brought a proud smile to Papa Low’s face: that’s my boy, he thought affectionately, always a stickler for detail. 

And it was true too. Detail had been one of the comely girls Felonious had dated in Hollywood but that, grumbled Fearless, was neither “here nor there”. 

“What about me?” grumbled Fearless Leader and it was a good, if loaded, question. 

It was good because its right answer was invariably bad where Fearless was concerned and it was loaded because it looked like he might soon be shot into that place where, without collecting $200, one goes directly to.

How had it come to this? 

The kindly kleptocrat had followed all the right measures, listened to the right people, even read Lloyd George: “To be a successful politician, you have to learn to bury your conscience.” 

Felonious didn’t know about the former but he knew quite a bit about consciences. A pleasantly piquant 1976 Dom Ruinart Blanc would bury it pretty deep, agreed the beefy bandit cheerfully. 

And yet, Fearless remained cool under pressure. This was unlike Mrs Fearless who no longer had anything to say and was saying it so loudly that her silence was deafening. 

It was seriously out of character and it put to the lie the so-called wisdom that she had been the real power behind the throne. 

Nope, it had been Fearless all along. He remained calm, however, by dint of blame: he blamed everyone from Felonious and the bankers to Goldman Sachs and the lawyers. 

In between, he blamed the takers as well, arguing that “if they did not take, he would not have had to give.” It was a compelling argument   which, unfortunately, had no takers. 

Fearless even contemplated blaming it on the bossa-nova and had to be talked out of it by his lawyer, the eminent Scruffy A who took time off his tax-dodging troubles to remonstrate with his client. 

Blame was all right but what Fearless really needed was a good, old-fashioned miracle. He was optimistic and was nothing, if not religious, which was unlike his not-so-trusty sidekick, Felonious, whose faith was such that the church he did not attend was Christian on its off-days. 

You could not say the same about Fearless. Historians will attest that he whispered a mumbled prayer immediately after being sworn in in 2009. 

It was soft but it was clear. “Let us prey,” was the humble entreaty. And the rest, as they say, is history.  

SPEAK SOFTLY AND CARRY A BIG WAD OF CASH

There but for the grace of Beijing go I, breathed Felonious and shuddered so violently that he required two more goblets of soothing Dom Perignon to restore his customary good cheer. 

The chortling char siew, as he was fondly described in Hollywood circles, once thought there were lessons to be learnt in this instance. 

Crime did pay – for nine years at least – until you got caught. And it could have been worse, he told Hairy, his moustache-flashing father, “it could have been me.”  

Or me, thought Hairy Low, his moustache flashing triumphantly because in their case, it was still paying and then some. 

The object of their ruminations was Felonious’ one-time taiko and old-round, best buddy Fearless Leader who had been found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million to boot. 

Fearless had the finest lawyer money could buy in the form of Scruffy A, a pit-bull with a beard. Scruffy’s fees alone might have been punishment enough for Fearless, but the man had also come up with a compelling legal defence. 

Shorn of its legal rhetoric, and there were a great many, it boiled down to three phrases: “Who, me?”, “I didn’t know anything”, and “It was all Fatso’s fault.” 

Scruffy was proud of his erudite counsel and thought the latter defence especially brilliant. Alas, his brilliance was extinguished by a no-nonsense Judge Nazlan who dismissed it as “far-fetched, defying logic” and “lacking in credulity.” In short, what Scruffy thought had been lucid reason and sweet clarity, Judge Nazlan ruled as bunkum, hogwash and – his last offer – poppycock.

Indeed, the judge privately thought that even the Boston Strangler had put up a better showing. Still, after all the sound and fury, the tale told by an idiot signifying nothing, it had taken the better part of two years for Fearless’ trial to wend its way through court. 

Even so, the gallant Fearless remained undaunted and promised that an appeal would clear his name. Instead of waiting for said appeal, Scruffy enumerated Judge Nazlan’s “many mistakes” to the media although he magnanimously conceded that the mistakes had all been “honest”. 

But for all of Fearless smugness outside the court, he must have been dismayed by the international headlines he provoked the day after. 

An Australian newspaper ran “Plundering idiot” on its front page while the New York Times had “The fall of Malaysia’s Man of Steal” as its headline. 

On a note of accuracy: If you thought the NYT was punny, you should think local cartoonist Zunar, whose original it is. The paper had written to him asking permission to use it and he’d agreed. 

Fearless had liked Zunar well enough when he was busy skewering Dr M or Abdullah Badawi, but he’d thought the reference to a Super-thief had been in poor taste.

Fearless had been surprised when his coalition lost the 2018 election. But in truth, it wasn’t so surprising: the people had simply read between the lies.

It was that loss that had undone them both, thought Felonious sadly for he longed for the glory days of Equanimity and ice-cold white wine on its moonlit deck. 

The dumpy dim-sum concluded that the secret of success lay in not getting caught. And Felonious resolved to do so by emulating Teddy Roosevelt. 

Henceforth, he would always speak softly and carry a big wad of cash.

Is there honour among thieves? Nah!!

Here we go again! 

According to a report in the New York Times, Goldman Sachs, the US investment banker that helped birth a gigantic fraud at the 1Malaysia Development Fund (1MDB), is attempting to get US federal prosecutors to ease up on the bank’s role in the scandal. 

The report stated that lawyers for Goldman Sachs had asked US Deputy Attorney-General Jeffery Rosen to review demands by certain federal prosecutors that Goldman Sachs pay more than US$2bil (RM8.5bil) in fines and plead guilty to a charge.

The report said that the bank was also seeking to pay lower fines and to avoid a guilty plea altogether. It quoted sources as speaking on the condition of anonymity as the talks were currently ongoing.

“The request, which was made several weeks ago, is not unusual for a high-profile corporate investigation and often comes in the final stage of settlement talks,” said the paper. 

“But it has been a point of pride for Goldman that it has never had to admit guilt in a federal investigation, and the scandal has already been a black eye for the bank,” the report said.

That could be understating it considerably. For its part, Malaysia got a lot more than a black eye. 1MDB’s protagonists earned the dubious distinction of perpetrating the world’s biggest-ever fraud.

But “point of pride” and “never had to admit guilt”? Surely you jest, Goldman?

It’s not as if the investment bank had an unblemished reputation.

In 2009, for example, a Rolling Stone article by Matt Tiabbi unforgettably described Goldman Sachs as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”. 

So much for “point of principle.’ 

According to the US Justice Department, Goldman Sachs earned USD$600mil (RM2.56bil) in fees for raising US$6bil (RM25.6bil) for 1MDB.

Tim Leissner, the Goldman employee in Asia, had admitted that he and others at the investment firm  had conspired to circumvent the bank’s internal control to work with fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho – known as Felonious to friends and the police alike – to bribe Malaysian officials in order to secure the lucrative bond work for the bank.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since. 

A government has collapsed under the weight of 1MDB and its leader – Fearless to all and sundry – has been tried and is awaiting a verdict in July 

Felonious is still at large and he corpulently continues to cast a sizeable shadow over the Malaysian body politic. As is his wont, he prefers to cast that shadow as far away from Malaysia as possible. 

Fearless hasn’t changed much though. He continues to try and assert himself although it’s doubtful if he will ever be taken seriously again.  

He, however, does admit 1MDB might have been a mistake. 

He has since come to the revelation that Malaysia “had been cheated.” By Felonious! Peerless also claimed that “it was clear” that Goldman had also failed.

He had clearly been thinking the matter over the last two years and seemed to have all the answers. 

And like the Oracle of Delphi of bygone days, Fearless pronounced his Truth. It was actually everyone – “the investment bank, the lawyers and the auditors” – who had all let us, all of us, the whole country, down. 

Everyone but him. 

JUST GRIN AND “BEAR” IT.

The Malaysian police recently revealed that the plump pilferer alias His Awesome Ampleness Jho bin Low was at one point hiding out in Wuhan.

If true, it would make for no small irony as the villainous virus would then have met up with his infectious counterpart with quite possibly interesting results all round. 

Alas, there is no new intelligence on whether the dumpy dacoit has since fled the city at the centre of the global Covid-19 outbreak.

In any case, the cherubic crook’s status has evolved over time. Once thought to be but an ample accomplice in the 1MDB heist, court testimony in the trial of its alleged pink-lipped principal has moved to shift the blame on to Fatso’s well-upholstered shoulders. 

Fearless Leader, who once vowed in Parliament that the smiling shark had nothing to do with 1MDB, now alleges that it was the same beaming brigand that not only took him, but the country, for an epic ride.  

As Fearless’ prosecutors might question: “Et Tu Brute?” Fat-boy agreed it was brutish and wished his erstwhile friend had blamed it on the bossa nova like most sensible people.    

The bandit was no-longer beaming. Instead, he felt sick to his stomach. 

It led to Malaysia’s alert and always intrepid Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador to shrewdly speculate that the villainous varmint might have contracted the virus.

He said that if the massive miscreant had indeed contracted the disease, “he should return to Malaysia where the treatment is the best.”

The civilised conman declined the offer courteously. And he did so in the full knowledge that he could buy a few hospitals if need be: the proceeds from the crime of the century is estimated at between US$4.5-7.9 billion (MYR18.6-33 billion)

China has always denied the Plump One’s presence. The South China Morning Post reported, however, that a spokesperson for the ne’er-do-well has disclosed that the round robber was hiding out in a country that “acts in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights”.

China would heartily agree with that description of itself. 

Late last year Abdul Hamid had bemoaned the scuppering of the manhunt for Low by “dishonest” foreign state authorities who were allegedly protecting the fugitive.

But the strangest spin was given on the story by the Hong Kong-based paper. The IGP was quoted by the SCMP as saying:

“Among the excuses they gave include Jho Low apparently having changed his looks by undergoing facial surgery to look like a bear.”

“Sometimes when he walks, he looks like a [bear]. So, when we look at him from behind, that is how he looks. Do you think this excuse [given by the authorities of the country Jho Low is hiding in] is logical?”

Think about it. This is a man who’s allegedly stolen more money than Croesus’ net worth: who’s able to afford to look like Brad Pitt but, if the Chinese are to be believed, prefers to look like Yogi. 

So, the next time someone says, “Bear in mind”, don’t immediately visualise Paddington.

Think Low Teck Jho.  

Being friends for the world to see

It was like Batman turning on Robin or the Lone Ranger disavowing Tonto. 

There was Low Teck Jho doing what fat fugitives do best, sunning himself surreptitiously in some swank spa at an undisclosed destination that Abdul Hamid Bador had yet to figure out…

… when the bombshell hit. 

His pal, helpmate and all-round best buddy threw him under the proverbial bus. 

Fearless Leader’s defence had been called in the case involving SRC International and Fearless rose to the challenge with his usual manly spirit.

 “Who, me?” screamed FL in shock and promptly professed his innocence by blaming everything and the kitchen sink on his plump protege and four other mysterious Middle Eastern gentlemen, none of whom planned to be around for the duration of the trial.

It was a crafty ploy built around a tried and tested legal philosophy: blame it on the bossa-nova also known as “if you can’t convince them, confuse them.” And it wasn’t surprising either because Fearless lawyer was a learned barrister who long ago had made nonsense of the saying “talk is cheap.”

Mohamad Shafiee Abdullah knew that talk was not cheap and legal work was never charity. That he preferred to leave to U2’s lawyers because they always worked pro-Bono. 

Even so, it was an astonishing admission that beggared belief. According to it, the real captain of the ship that saddled 1MDB with RM42 billion in debt was a beefy brigand whose name did not feature anywhere on its official records and whose whereabouts remained a mystery.

You might say confusion not only reigned, it poured. 

The bulging bandit was appalled by the news and didn’t know whether to be elated or angry. Like Fearless himself, the fat fiend had always professed innocence where 1MDB had been concerned.

He claimed he could not come back to Malaysia because he would not be given a “fair trial.” And when he invariably gave in to the American courts that seized his ill-gotten assets, his well-paid flunkies always added the proviso that the surrenders did not constitute an “admission of guilt.” 

Still, the chubby charlatan has steadfastly chosen to remain silent on the option of returning to the United States where he still faces several money laundering charges. Presumably the penal system there was not quite up to the mark. 

Secretly, however, the rotund rascal was pleased with Mr Shafiee’s description of him being the “leader of the pack” and the “brains behind the scheme.” The measure of that pleasure was almost always conditional to his distance from Malaysia and was inversely proportional to the Inspector General of Police’s ignorance of his whereabouts. 

The lamentable larcenist was getting increasingly philosophical in his old age and felt that the Malaysian authorities were getting too judgmental. For his part, he was all for letting bygones be bygones. 

Refreshed by the thought, the portly pirate dashed off a “Wish You Were Here” postcard to Fearless that generously allowed the detected defendant to heap even more blame on Fatboy. 

Because that was how real friends behaved. 

THE BALLAD OF BO(SS) AND JHO

Despite allegations at him hurled,

The fat fraud’s been circuiting the world,

With a ‘ticket, and a ‘tasket,

A whopping currency basket, 

A heist so big, Dr M’s hair did curl.

It wouldn’t do; a million or three,

It had to be billions going to me. 

Look after Boss was the remit, 

Beyond that, the sky’s the limit.

All one had to do was remain free.

For six glorious years all was fine:

A yacht, a plane, women, fine wine.

Until the cracks began, 

Which the Edge duly fanned

Into the blaze that became May 9. 

With one voice the people had spoken,

Finally, the Bee-N got broken;

Umno-cat was belled;

The mighty were felled;

From slumber, the voters had woken.

Shocked, the Boss could run but could’t flee.

“It’s all someone’s fault, not me” wailed he.

As for Jho,

He laid Low

And deeply dreaded the IGP.

The plump pirate planned to run forever,

So far so good, but never say never.

St Kitts was a bust,

Macau bit the dust,

A haven was what he needed, if ever.

The Boss himself had little or no shame, 

To Sharol, even Jho, he assigned blame.

While playing his fiddle, 

The country got diddled.

In court, he now has his fair share of fame.

Jho thought he’d everyone paid for and bought.

But all his best laid plans had come to naught. 

The moral of this story

Is positively hoary:

A crime isn’t wrong until one gets caught.

The global noose for Jho is tightening,

And in nowhere is it ever  brightening.

Like this plain rhyme,

It will take time.

Alas, poor Jho, it must be frightening!

For Fatso, all roads are leading to jail, 

That’s enough to make even Rosmah quail.

He will only know his fate after he loses some weight,

During the time he’s imprisoned without bail.

When justice is no longer a decision in your favour

Most people thought they knew all about Low Teck Jho.  On matters of style, for example, they knew he had the best taste money could buy.  

It now turns out that the corpulent conman known as Jho Low to pal and prosecutor alike also kept his cards close to his chest. In those days before the wannabe wrongdoer morphed into the fat fugitive he is now, his regular three-nation tours abroad were assumed to be visits to his money. Now it seems it was not just the US, Switzerland and Singapore that held his assets, it was the United Kingdom as well. 

And, if you thought he only owned realty, art and jewellery think again: he owned a lingerie firm in London as well.  

We know all this because of the US authorities. The London office used by the Malaysian miscreant for his luxury lingerie company is to be sold under a forfeiture claim by the United States because, according to US authorities, the property is one of many acquired with money embezzled from IMDB.

And, as per his wont, nothing was too good for him. 

The office as well as a nearby penthouse and apartment was acquired by the tubby thief in 2010 on Stratton Street in the upscale Mayfair neighbourhood. The bad news for the plump pilferer is that he is likely to surrender those monies to the US and Malaysia. 

But he was an optimist. It could be worse, reflected Fatso philosophically, “I could still have been living there.”

You didn’t have to be a philosopher to figure the reasons why he dived into underwear. 

The ample alumnus of Stanford liked to be brief. His speech was clipped and short. His emails were short and generally coded and even his meetings were kept short to discourage questions. 

It explained his foray into lingerie which his associates knew rhymed with “gingerly”. But the bulky brigand put it differently. “Brevity is the soul of lingerie,” he explained and they knew they were in the presence of The Master. 

The dapper delinquent thought he’d masterfully handled his Stratton offices which were used by Myla, the said lingerie company that Low thought could be leveraged into film and profit seeing how he’d bankrolled Red Granite, a film production firm that had, incredibly, produced at least one award-winning film. The firm was headed by a stepson of Fearless Leader who, unlike his chubby consigliore, was facing the music and not safely ensconced in a country that denied it was China. 

In a 2014 email the plump Penangite sent from his Myla account, he introduced a Red Granite Pictures representative to Myla executives to follow up on “any opportunities for Myla in the movie space.

But Hollywood turned up its nose at “Lost Encounters of a Brief Kind” and, instead, happily agreed to “Dumb and Dumber.”

There was no accounting for some people’s tastes, thought the thick thief tranquilly. 

But life was no longer tranquil and the voluminous villain was belatedly realising that the odds of retaining his overseas assets were sinking faster than his associates could mispronounce “Titanic”. The US had brought thirty forfeiture suits against him and, cumulatively, was seeking real estate, investments, art and jewellery valued at US$1.7billion (RM7.14 billion) that Fatty and his accomplices had bought with their ill-gotten gains. 

He could not go to the US to defend those suits because he would be arrested if he did.  But as long as he wasn’t there, he would lose.  

It was ironic, he thought, but it was better than Fearless’ position. 

Crime meant never having to say you were sorry. 

Behind Every Great Fortune Is A Crime

The majority of people in Thailand are Buddhist which explains their philosophical approach to life. It’s like “treat every day as your last and one day you’ll be right.”

That sort of explains the Death Awareness Café.

The establishment is a cafe in Thailand that’s using a macabre gimmick to draw in customers – closing them in coffins after finishing coffee.

The Death Awareness Cafe in Bangkok features mortuary-inspired décor and coffins placed for customers to spend time closed inside after their purchased beverages.

A sample poster on the wall reads “Twelve remain dead in morgue shooting.” Another reads; “You should never grieve at funerals. In fact, if anyone cries at my funeral, I’ll never speak to him again.” 

Veeranut Rojanaprapa, the owner of the extraordinary café said the purpose of the cafe is to inspire customers to reflect on their lives. He said the idea was inspired by Buddhist philosophy and is aimed at encouraging people not to be driven by greed.

And he didn’t see any irony in opening the cafe for profit? Actually, the businessman was an eternal optimist. When he was a child, he persuaded his parents to buy him two goldfish. He called them One and Two so even if one died, he’d have two left.  

Be that as it may, there are as many business models as they are varied. The death motif was original and, to hear Mr Rojanaprapa explain it, it was also quintessentially Buddhist. 

“Our main goal is for the visitor to experience the death awareness,” he said. “When the lid of the coffin closes, their basic instincts will come up and they will realise that eventually they cannot take anything with them.”

The felonious fatso now not hiding out in China would have said that what they’d feel is panic. 

The Royal Malaysian Police felt panicky and wished the ostensibly Buddhist Felonious aka Jho Low would have had such self-realisation before he came up with his grand plan to defraud Malaysia that the Wall Street Journal described as the “world’s greatest heist.” 

But the smiling swindler must have known he would rise to a level of thievery that made even Bernie Madoff look like Winnie the Pooh. He knew that an MBA with a brief case and a fountain pen could steal more than a hundred men with guns. 

“Behind every great fortune is a crime,” wrote the French playwright Honore de Balzac way back in the early 19th century. But the plump pilferer who continued to haunt the dreams of the Inspector General of Police knew something that Balzac didn’t. 

Very early on, perhaps as early as his college years in Wharton, he’d realised that, in Malaysia, crime did not pay as well as politics.

So he combined the two and, if things had stayed the same, he may have gone on to become a latter day Warren Buffett.  

For isn’t it said that history is written by the victors?

He might even have commissioned Tom Wright and Bradley Hope to write his memoirs called – why not? – Billion Dollar Whale.

Alas, poor Felonious! His advice will no longer be sought by governments, he will always be looking over his shoulder  and the next book about him might conceivably be about his arrest and trial, the best-selling Billion Dollar Bail.

It doesn’t get any more Zen than that.