Petaling Jaya: He is one of the most wanted men in Malaysia. Datuk Seri Nicky Liow Soon Hee, who thrives on being in the limelight, must be wishing that he had kept himself away from public attention.
Malaysians who have seen pictures of this brash young man posing with his piles of cash and luxury cars must have wondered why anyone would ever want to do that.
Some blamed it on the fugitive’s Instagram generation which values image over substance.
Liow, who celebrates his 33rd birthday at the end of this month, is known to throw lavish parties with free-flowing booze. That won’t happen this year.
Police want him to face charges on organised crime, money laundering, Macau scam and commercial crime cases, and likely involving drugs too.
Recently, police arrested 68 individuals, including his two brothers, also Datuk Seri titleholders, and a Datuk who are believed to be gang members.
Police also seized 16 luxury vehicles, including a Rolls Royce and five Alphard MPVs, and hard currency totalling over RM7mil in 70 raids conducted between March 20 and March 28.
Obviously, Liow wanted to show off his wealth without a thought that he would be watched and eventually asked where he had amassed the fortune.
He is the classic case of a wannabe who aspired to become an influencer, while missing the part about actually being influential at all.
His Facebook account still exists with plenty of pictures and videos of him with his luxury cars and parties.
So, the drive for self-fame took over, and soon Liow actually believed he had become a philanthropist. For sure, not a Robin Hood as he was not robbing the rich to help the poor.
Perhaps he just wanted to prove that he has made it. The Malaysian Dream – with a Datuk Seri to boot – of course. A big shot, to put it simply.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador reportedly said the cockiness of Liow who “openly exposed his wealth on social media” enhanced police investigations into various money-laundering and commercial crime cases.
Last August, the SMK Bandar Baru Ampang former student called up the school wanting to give a huge donation to his alma mater in a gesture of appreciation.
Not known for his academic achievements, none of the teachers could recall this former student of theirs but still, a RM600,000 donation was hard to turn down.
It included smart TVs, electronic devices, air-conditioners and a pledge to renovate the school hall.
In any case, no one would pose impolite questions to a kind-hearted Datuk Seri, an old boy with a golden heart.
Liow, who left the school after finishing Form Five in 2006, told reporters who covered the hand-over that he came from a poor family, and was the eldest of four siblings.
He said he had to do odd jobs after school to help put food on the table for his family, saying he was the sole breadwinner.
He confessed he could not focus in class, obviously an academic failure, because he had much to worry about.
Liow described the “real world” as tough and that he had “to work 10 times harder than others” because he did not have a good academic background.
It isn’t clear now if Liow was aware that the law had been closing in on him as there had been reports that law enforcement officers including a former public prosecutor with a Datuk title was on his payroll and would have tipped him off.
Just days before the simultaneous raids were carried out by police to arrest his gang members, he was at a recreational club in Puchong, with his shiny Rolls Royce parked prominently at the entrance.
Some press photographers had actually staged a stake-out nearby for the imminent arrest but it did not take place.
Those familiar with the probe said Liow had also been an advocate of investing in MFace International Bhd, a unit of MBI Group International Bhd. Both companies are on Bank Negara’s alert list of unlicensed activities which contain over 300 companies.
In 2018, three directors of MFace faced 11 charges of money laundering involving RM122.88mil. They were accused of receiving monies said to be raised from illegal business activities between 2012 and 2017.
The three directors were charged under subsection 4(1)b of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLA) 2001.
Liow is said to have also invested in cryptocurrencies, including the Hong Kong-registered Dragon Pool, and had openly boasted he made huge returns from his investments.It is understood that police are also investigating complaints of cheating made against Liow for fraudulent and non-existent investment schemes with promises of good returns.
Liow also spoke about putting money in property in Abang Island in Batam, Indonesia, but it is not clear what his plans there were.
But as part of the modus operandi, high dividends were assured as a way of getting rich, which he described in one FB posting as “1 Formula”.
“That’s why believe wat ur invest! Juz believe it. Dream will came (sic) true!” he posted.
Liow’s link includes a relationship with the notorious Wan Kuok Kai, 65, or Broken Tooth, who served 14 years in prison in Macau after being convicted of illegal money lending, money laundering and leading a criminal group, before being released in 2012.
Wan has long been on the police wanted list over his alleged involvement in gangsterism and a fraud case involving RM6mil since October last year.
Incredibly, at one time, he even briefly served as chairman of a Malaysian public-listed company. Like Liow, Wan has also disappeared.
Liow’s seven-year clandestine activities are as good as gone with the arrests of his loyalists, which include Chinese nationals.
They are still under remand and look set to face a barrage of charges which will put them away in long jail sentences.
Liow seems to look for recognition desperately. There were plenty of fly-by-night titles from companies in Kuala Lumpur which are known to sell awards.
It wasn’t enough that he became a Datuk Seri but he wanted to be known as an award-winning entrepreneur.
But a company search of his company, Winner Dynasty Group Sdn Bhd incorporated in 2020, did not even provide any audited financial results.
There were no details of an auditor, balance sheet items nor any income statement items such as revenue, profit or loss.
The nature of his company was listed as “wholesale of a variety of goods without any particular specialisation”.
Still, Liow wanted to be seen in the company of influential and powerful figures, especially politicians and police officers, craving for acceptance and legitimate recognition.
The big break came during the movement control order in 2020 when he was able to present a huge number of face masks to frontliners with unwitting ministers turning up to accept it.
Little did they know that it was his attempt to mask his unlawful activities.