GEORGE TOWN: He once lorded over much of Penang as the “King of money games”. But how the mighty has fallen.
Tedy Teow, the founder of MBI – Mobility Beyond Imagination – can now start imagining himself being restricted in prison cells in three different countries, all of which want him for questioning over several money-laundering cases.
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It’s a far cry from his glory days. Then, he ruled over an “Mpire” that had pretty much everything – housing development, malls, a chain of hotels, an ehailing service and even its own brand of smartphones.
Not bad for a kid who had started out selling pencils, exercise books and combs.
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His MBI was also on top of the money game world.
It was during a time when there were plenty of get-rich-quick schemes in Penang which promised high returns – JJ Poor To Rich (JJPTR), Richway Global Venture, Mama Captain, and Change Your Life (CYL) – but MBI was the darling of them all.
Teow had a large following here particularly with the hawkers, self-employed professionals and ordinary folk who wanted to make a fast buck.
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“He was my hero. I made a few thousand ringgit monthly from my investment in MBI then. But eventually, I lost it all after I doubled my investment, only to see the company collapsing later on,” said hawker BK Khor, 58.
While many heaped praise on the big man, some also nearly lost their life savings when MBI was red-flagged by authorities in 2019.
A technician at a factory in Bayan Lepas free-trade zone, who wanted to be known only as James, said he learnt about the scheme through one of his friends.
“This was about four years ago. After earning a profit each month for about one year, I put in everything I had. I was lucky to break even in the end,” he said.
Fast-forward to today, Teow is now in custody in Thailand and awaiting deportation after he was arrested in Songkhla last Friday. And both Malaysia and China want him in their hands.
The Malaysian police are applying for a repatriation exercise for Teow to return to the country to assist in investigations under Section 420 for cheating.
Beijing police also reportedly want him for questioning. This is after a suit filed end of last year by about 400 investors from China to recover investments worth some RM100mil.
In 2019, about 100 Chinese nationals staged a peaceful protest outside the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur to complain that they had been cheated by an online pyramid scheme operated by MBI.
Coincidentally, it was in China that Teow got his “second shot at life” according to a YouTube video released in 2013.
Titled The Story of MBI International’s Boss, the video was a biography of Teow as an enterprising schoolboy in the 1970s, bringing pencils, exercise books, combs and assorted items to sell in his school.
The video also described Teow’s view of great potential in the franchising industry, which led him to start his beverage company called “Island Red Cafe” in 2008.
The company boasted having the best and trendiest coffee culture in the country but it was actually little more than just a chain of coffee shops.
Anyone interested could invest in the company. A year later, many shareholders stopped getting their returns. And police reports were lodged.
In 2011, Teow and his son Chee Chow were sentenced to a day’s jail and fined RM160,000 after admitting to two counts of cheating and misleading investors of more than RM1mil in the Island Red Cafe scheme in 2010.
Not long after came MBI. It took Penang by storm with offers of “lucrative” returns and was big news in 2015.
Teow was then director of Mface International Bhd and MBI Marketing Sdn Bhd, two companies under the MBI group.
The company set up M Mall 020 in Jalan Datuk Keramat as its headquarters. The mall had several convenience stores which sold its own brand of body lotions, shampoo products and general trading.
Members could use digital currency called Mcoin to buy and redeem stuff from M Mall.
The company even launched its own line of MBI International smartphones then.
MBI also had a chain of hotels including one in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah and a Chinese restaurant in Jelutong. It also operated an e-hailing service called MULA car.
MBI’s popularity skyrocketed and there was a huge development project next to the Penang International Airport called Mpire Residences being proposed. It never materialised.
The company spread its wings to Kedah with a housing project in Kulim called MBI Desaku.
Teow turned philanthropist when he set up MBI Charity 100, a social responsibility effort by MBI Group to help the poor and the needy. The objective was to hold 999 charity events each year.
But in 2017, Teow’s world came crashing down. M Mall was raided by police, while 91 bank accounts linked to MBI International were frozen. The accounts held RM177mil.
Teow would later face two charges of issuing unrecognised payment instruments. In 2018, he was fined RM2.5mil and RM3mil by Bank Negara for financial irregularities.
Last year, police said Teow and his two sons were also involved in a Macau scam totalling up to RM336mil.
Teow’s family has not been spared, too. His son was held at knifepoint after three Chinese nationals broke into the family’s house looking for him for a refund.
The intruders fled but not before dropping two fake bombs in the house.
But now, the real bombshell has fallen. Teow is under police custody. But his story has surely not ended yet.