As 1MDB sought partners for its investments, Mr. Low provided business connections in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, some of them cultivated in his student years. Global investigators believe that some of these contacts ultimately became part of the diversion of 1MDB money via a web of offshore companies registered in lightly regulated places such as the British Virgin Islands
Along the way, Mr. Low, 34 years old, appears to have amassed riches as some 1MDB money landed in accounts held by him and members of his family, according to bank records and people familiar with investigations. He became a jet-setter, partying in Las Vegas nightclubs, buying luxury properties on both U.S. coasts, amassing a collection of modern art and befriending Hollywood celebrities.
The production company has said it had no reason to believe the source of its financing was irregular and has said it is seeking to repay the financing. Mr. DiCaprio and his representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Low, whose full name is Low Taek Jho, is soft-spoken, portly and charming, people who know him say. He grew up in the Malaysian state of Penang, where his businessman father was affluent enough to send him to the elite Harrow school in the U.K. and the undergraduate program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
At Wharton, the young Mr. Low cast himself as a kind of “prince,” said a person who studied with him. Once, to impress visiting friends, he borrowed a yacht berthed in Penang from a rich friend of his father’s and replaced the photos on board with those of his own family, said another acquaintance.