Controversial HK website Dim Sum Daily linked to company owned by man wanted in Malaysia over 1MDB scandal

27-Sep-2019 Intellasia | AFP | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A man wanted over the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia is the joint owner of a marketing firm that has close links to a website under scrutiny over its negative coverage of Hong Kong’s anti-extradition protests.

Toh Lean Seng, who is wanted for questioning by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), has been revealed as a founder of Asia United Media (AUM), a Hong Kong marketing agency with ties to Dim Sum Daily.

The Hong Kong-focused website, whose exact ownership remains unclear, has attracted criticism on social media for its coverage of the city’s pro-democracy movement.

Toh, who is believed by Malaysian authorities to have fled the country, incorporated AUM in Hong Kong in June last year with co-founder Torres Pit, corporate records show.

Pit is a popular Hong Kong-based YouTube vlogger who covers lifestyle issues such as travel and dating.

AUM is among a number of Hong Kong firms established by Toh in recent years, according to corporate records, including Legion Tech, Legion Media and DDT Holdings.

Until recently, AUM and Dim Sum Daily both listed a Tsim Sha Tsui business address on their respective websites, while AUM claimed Dim Sum Daily among the brands under its umbrella on its now-defunct company website.

The links between the companies were first highlighted last week by a reporter with the Hong Kong-based digital news outlet HK01.

Last week, Dim Sum Daily published an anonymously-written article which singled out an expat blogger, Hong Kong Hermit, for attending a recent “illegal” anti-extradition protest while repeating unsubstantiated claims that he is employed by the CIA.

“He may not be [a] CIA operative but his tweets definitely give weight to one-sided perspective on the ongoing violent protests in Hong Kong shared in the international community,” the article said.

In August, Dim Sum Daily described as “suspicious” the source of funding for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which was established to cover the medical and legal bills of anti-extradition protesters, while noting the “many accusations” of the United States bankrolling the protests.

Malaysian authorities have not revealed the nature of their interest in Toh and the MACC did not respond to repeated requests for comment by the South China Morning Post.

Malaysian and US investigators say up to $4.5 billion was looted from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state investment fund founded by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who is now facing several corruption trials, with allegations of criminal activity stretching from the US to Switzerland and Singapore.

Torres Pit, who has more than 270,000 YouTube subscribers, said he had been unaware that Toh was wanted when he co-founded AUM after meeting him in Hong Kong last year, despite Malaysian authorities earlier making a public appeal for information on his whereabouts.

“I didn’t do any Google research,” Pit said. “I was young and I thought it was a promising business so I just went ahead.

“My friend introduced him to me because he said Toh has good expertise in social media,” Pit added.

Pit said AUM had done promotion work for Dim Sum Daily, but he and the firm otherwise had no connection to the news site.

“I don’t want people to think I have a connection with Dim Sum Daily,” Pit said. “As a YouTuber, I want to be responsible for what I write and I want to make it clear what is not written by me.”

Pit said he regretted describing Dim Sum Daily as one of “our brands” as it had become a “source of confusion”, and AUM’s address was a co-working space that had never been used.

When contacted through the Dim Sum Daily website, an unidentified spokesperson said AUM was not the owner of the news site and Toh and Pit had “no bearing on Dim Sum Daily as they are not associated with the brand”.

“We merely had an understanding with them that they would procure advertisers for us and we had no knowledge of their modus operandi,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that while Dim Sum Daily did not consider itself a “proper” media outlet, it had no political agenda and its references to the CIA were made in jest.

“We write content to gain readership as after all we are a viral media,” the spokesperson said. “Dim Sum Daily is a fun site that posts anything that is viral. We exist to feed the local market with breaking news and happenings in Hong Kong.”

A former business partner of Toh in Malaysia said while he was not certain of Dim Sum Daily’s ownership structure, he had been contracted to build the news outlet’s website by another individual shortly after Toh had approached him about establishing a marketing firm.

“My assumption is Toh recommended me… to build the website,” said the former business partner, who requested anonymity.


Category: Hong Kong

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