The clean-up operation has largely extended to 1MDB, but in several areas it is taking a long time, with connected companies changing their management, status and ownership in the meantime.
The UK headquarters of 1MDB’s alleged first joint venture partner, PetroSaudi International, for example, appears to have reached near slick status according to the company’s latest accounts, despite being billed as a large oil company. international not so long ago by the management of 1MDB.
The last employed director resigned in January to be replaced by a lawyer from the city, whose firm is based in the Strand. At the same time, the address of the posh Curzon Street Mayfair office where KL-based journalists had been entertained to impress them on the company’s wealth influence, also closed last week. The contact address of PetroSaudi in London is now that of the lawyer employed to be the sole director.
The latest accounts, submitted in October of last year, nevertheless indicate that the company remained in operation and maintained an average of 14 employees during the previous year, mainly managing the activities and employment of the international group. affiliated companies (most of which are offshore entities).
It is not known where they are now housed after the latest upheaval. Sarawak Report has yet to receive a response from Senior COO / Chairman, British businessman Rick Haythornthwaite (also Chairman of Mastercard) as to whether he still holds a position.
A lingering dispute with PetroSaudi (described as a “risk” and “going concern” in the October filing) is an ongoing dispute with the Venezuelan state oil company, which was the company’s main customer. PetroSaudi’s drillship operation in which most of 1MDB’s investments had been invested. .
Drillships have been inactive for over a year as the Venezuelan government refused to pay the contract due to alleged negligence and non-performance of the ships, which crews abandoned, saying they were overly applauded and dangerous for human habitation. Arbitration was scheduled for December on the matter and Sarawak Report asked the new director of PetroSaudi if there was any news of a judgment. He did not immediately respond.
Venezuelan prosecutors separately filed a major fraud case related to this case and others involving the country’s former petroleum minister, while PetroSaudi successfully sued the UK to secure payment for a letter from pledged credit of $ 130 million that Venezuela had challenged under the circumstances.
At the same time, a London subsidiary, PetroSaudi Energy and Trading, was put into liquidation in November after several formal notices of overdue accounts, on the instructions of a meeting chaired by its sole director, British citizen Patrick Mahony.
Mahony, a close friend of Saudi owner Tarek Obaid, was a key figure in running the entire 1MDB joint venture, having proposed in an email he wrote in 2009 to fund adviser Jho Low. to allow PetroSaudi to be used ‘as a front’, as it seems to have been the case later with the takeover of UBG in Sarawak using the stolen money of 1MDB.
Overall, therefore, it appears that PetroSaudi’s operations have largely come to a standstill, although a considerable portion of the missing 1MDB money was returned through this letter of credit to the company’s shareholder, Tarek. Obaid, who is currently under investigation in Switzerland with Mahony. (former PSI investment manager) for a litany of alleged serious crimes, including fraud, money laundering and the false imprisonment of their former colleague and 1MDB whistleblower Xavier Justo.
There has been even more evolution and change in the United States when it comes to other companies closely linked to another key figure in the 1MDB scandal, this time Vegas-based nightclub and entertainment group Hakkasan. The growing company was owned by Emirati businessman Khadem al-Qubaisi (known as “KAQ”) when he received hundreds of millions of dollars in setbacks from 1MDB in exchange for clearing its sovereign wealth fund IPIC and its subsidiary Aabar to act as a second “front” for the billion dollar thefts of 1MDB, again orchestrated by Jho Low.
Hakkasan is also registered in the UK with the original shareholder cited as a private Abu Dhabi company called Tasameem Real Estate Company Limited, which US court records have revealed is 90% owned by KAQ and the rest. to a parent.
Former group manager Neil Moffitt, appointed in 2014, was also a UK citizen and saw the chain’s rapid global expansion in the wake of the hundreds of millions that poured from 1MDB into KAQ’s private Luxembourg bank account in the name by VASCO Trust.
Moffitt also led the purchase of a number of properties in the United States on behalf of KAQ (including the Beverley Hills mansions and a large penthouse in New York), which were later confiscated by US authorities in under money laundering regulations, having been determined to have been funded. by these 1MDB bribes to KAQ.
However, Moffitt and Hakkasan management angrily dismissed concerns raised by the Sarawak report that any of the tainted cash in 1MDB could also have ended up in Tasameem’s segregated accounts to fund the wave of extraordinary acquisitions. later years of Hakkasan who had made it the largest hotel company in the United States in a matter of months and projected Moffitt’s profile as a media mogul.
In media statements, Hakkasan said the group was “bounded” by 1MDB, despite injecting $ 566 million in shareholder loans the day after Khadem received bribes.
Instead, Tasameem referred to a $ 20 million loan provided by sovereign fund subsidiary IPIC Abu Dhabi Aabar as a key source of funding for the Hakkasan group at the time. The group did not provide any comment on banking information obtained by Sarawak Report which showed that at least one payment of $ 10 million had however been made from the tainted VASCO trust account to Tasameem Real Estate Limited, the owner of Hakkasan.
She also did not comment on the name change of an offshore entity owned by KAQ from VASCO Strategic Services to Tasameem Strategic Fund during the same period.
Nonetheless, these exposures on 1MDB were also followed by a number of management and ownership reshuffles at Hakkasan. KAQ resigned as chairman of the group a year after being arrested and then detained in Abu Dhabi for the thefts committed at 1MDB.
Moffitt also resigned from the company, after remaining as a director and director for a few months after leaving KAQ. He and other former Aabar officials, who had worked simultaneously at private KAQ companies (e.g. US citizens Chad Tappendorf and James Sullivan) were replaced as directors by a new team of individuals led by from KAQ’s Emirati parents. At the end of 2016, Tasameem itself was replaced as a shareholder by a new company from Abu Dhabi.
KAQ’s initial disgrace, it should be remembered, came almost immediately after photographs showing his obscene nightclub habits were revealed on Sarawak Report, months before the full extent of his outrageous involvement in the nightclub was revealed. 1MDB flights are not included.
The apparent reason was that the Emirati royal family had extreme disapproval of such activities and the consumption of alcohol, gambling, and exposed flesh, which, of course, are hallmarks of the Vegas-based Hakkasan:
All of this makes the latest developments in the management and ownership of the club, as evidenced by recent filings, more noteworthy and surprising.
Over the past few months, various plans for the Hakkasan’s planned sale have been launched, including a proposed merger with another major Vegas group, SBE. None of these ultimately came to fruition.
Instead, the latest Hakkasan filings produced at the end of last year provided surprising news as a new owner emerged in the form of none other than Aabar himself, the fund’s subsidiary. sovereign IPIC of which KAQ had been president. , a position he allegedly abused to help embezzle billions of 1MDB.
As Sarawak Report has revealed in previous reports, Aabar has also functioned as a practical co-investor in a number of ventures with KAQ’s private companies, in what appeared to be a blatant conflict of interest, given his role as president and also as CEO of his parent concerns the IPIC heritage fund.
IPIC is now suing 1MDB (and even Goldman Sachs) for implicating the fund in the 1MDB scandal by participating in the corruption of KAQ.
It would be intriguing to find out how this major sovereign wealth fund, which has now been absorbed by Abu Dhabi’s flagship fund Mubadala, equates its new ownership of a Vegas-based chain of casinos and nightclubs to these strict ownership principles.