Wednesday 13 July 2011

Meet Jacob the jeweller

PETALING JAYA: The founder of Jacob & Co, for whose luxury merchandise Rosmah Mansor allegedly has a soft spot for, is as colourful as his clientele.

Among foreign celebrities, Jacob Arabo, an Uzbekistan-born Jew, is a household name and those who flock to his lavish outlets range from the likes of Beyonce Knowles to David Beckham.

The other prominent individuals on Jacob’s glittery list were renowned rappers 50 Cent, Diddy, Kanye West and other celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez and Naomi Campbell.

Arabo is so popular that in the video game “Def Jam: Fight for NY” part of the prize awaiting thugs who collect the most cash, was a choice to purchase jewellery from him. Apart from this, his name had also cropped up in numerous rap songs.

Famed for his opulent diamond-encrusted wrist watches and chunky jewellery, Jacob & Co, with outlets in 46 countries, was for those with very deep pockets.

Arabo had moved to the United States at the age of 14, and had dropped out of high school to enrol in a six-month jewellery design course.

By 21, he had opened a kiosk in the Kaplan Jewelry Exchange. Beginning in the 1990s, he started designing pieces for hip-hop artists.

Criminal record

But behind all the glitz and glamour, there was also a dark side to Arabo’s story. He had been accused of many crimes including money laundering and possession of stolen property.

In June 2006, he was arrested by the FBI over allegations that he laundered millions for members of a notorious Detroit-based drug gang, Black Mafia Family, and that he failed to report large cash purchases to the US Internal Revenue Service.

Arabo, who also has an outlet in the upscale Star Hill shopping complex here, landed in the limelight in Malaysia after several pro-opposition bloggers claimed that Rosmah had acquired a diamond ring worth a whopping RM73 million from his outlet in New York.

When the report was published in FMT and found its way to numerous blogs, there were some commentators who claimed that Jacob & Co’s website had removed Rosmah’s photograph from its list of celebrities, but this could not be verified.

Today, another blogger published photographs of Rosmah sporting a set of bangles which looked strikingly similar to Jacob’s “Zebra Safari” diamond bangles, which industry experts claimed could be worth a fortune.
A pro-Pakatan Rakyat NGO Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) filed a report over the diamond ring with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Rosmah, and her husband, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, are currently in the UK.

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