It has now been confirmed that the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund manager, who was central to the businessman Jho Low’s deals involving 1MDB, has been stripped of all his remaining official posts in the Emirates state.
A low key announcement published on Tuesday May 5th made clear that Khadem Al Quubaisi has been relieved of his position as Chairman of the Spanish oil giant CEPSA, as well as all the other subsidiaries of the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), of which he had been the Chief Executive.
Last week we reported that he had earlier stepped down as Chairman of the Aabar Investment company, which has been involved in a series of highly controversial billion ringgit loans raised by Malaysia’s scandal torn 1 Malaysia development fund.
So sudden has been this decision that several of the websites from this major group of companies have so far failed to update on the information, CEPSA included.
The dismissals remain unexplained. However the dramatic development follows scrutiny by Sarawak Report of Mr Al Quubaisi’s several connections with 1MDB and the businessman Jho Low.
These included the revelation that a USD$20.75 million payment was made in February 2013 from the company Good Star, which is controlled by Low, into the Abu Dhabi official’s personal account at the Edmund de Rothschild bank in Luxembourg (Banque Privee Edmond de Rothschild Europe).
Sarawak Report has demonstrated that Good Star had earlier siphoned USD$1.16 billion out of 1MDB’s initial joint venture with a little known oil company PetroSaudi International and the payment to Al Quubaisi from such a source remains unexplained.
However, there has been a string of subsequent deals involving Aabar Investments and 1MDB.
And there have also been a number of deals involving Aabar and Jho Low.
These have included a so-called USD$3 billion ‘strategic partnership‘/ Joint Venture launched by Malaysia’s Finance Minister and Prime Minister, Najib Razak in March 2013 and two shared bond issues totalling another USD$3.5 billion to fund the purchase of power providers in Malaysia.
Huge sums appear to have leaked from these deals, according to a widespread body of critical analysis, which has contributed to 1MDB’s debt-ridden position.
Aabar has also engaged in various enterprises with Jho Low in investment deals that clearly involved 1MDB.
Sarawak Report has now obtained documents which officially confirm that 1MDB received approval on 4th April 2011 to purchase an option on a company named JQ1 Limited (BVI) for £46.32 million.
In the approval application JQ1 was described as being a subsidiary of Aabar and the purpose of the investment was stated in 1MDB’s submission as being to:
“Initiate [a] business relationship for subsequent direct investment by Abu Dhabi companies into Malaysia to set up a world class hotel management school within the KLIFD [Kuala Lumpur International Financial District] and Bandar Malaysia”
In fact, by 2014 it emerged that the money was actually used to support a bid by another company JQ2, which was owned by Jho Low, in his attempt to buy out the London Coroin Hotel Group, as exposed by Sarawak Report.
Up till now Jho Low has denied any involvement by 1MDB in backing his deals. However these documents from Malaysia’s own investigations demonstrate his denials to have been untrue.
Our information shows that the ‘call option’, open for six months from April 2011, approved for 1MDB specifically allowed it to:
“opt for the following – (a) Exercise the call option by purchasing JQ2 Limited BVI’s shares at an excise price of £2.78 million (b) Not exercising the call option…”
JQ2 was a company owned by Jho Low (JQ1 was the company owned by Aabar).
This enabled Jho Low to use 1MDB’s backing to assist his London Hotel bid (eventually unsuccessful) through a vehicle that clearly collaborated with Aabar’s JQ1.
Investigators, who have been examining the deal, have now reported that the transaction was sponsored directly by the Ministry of Finance and that “During the application, 1MDB informed that:
“(a) The investment is a government to government initiative (i.e. Malaysia and Abu Dhabi). 1MDB has been instructed to carry out and execute this investment by its shareholder, MOF Inc [Ministry of Finance] (Approval from MOF obtained on 30th March 2011) and
(b) The investment will bring in new investment namely through Aabar consortium which is looking into establishing a leading Hotel Management School in Malaysia”
Once Jho Low’s London Hotel deal fell through however, the suggestion for a Hotel Management School in Malaysia funded by Arab investment through Aabar was also evidently abandoned.
According to sources, this history of deals between Jho Low and Aabar, involving 1MDB, has led to a new focus on Khadam al Quubaisi’s relationship with Jho Low over the purchase of the American owned Coastal Energy last year by the Spanish oil giant CEPSA.
Under Quubaisi’s Chairmanship the board of CEPSA had embarked on a number of high profile, flamboyant deals, involving major expenditure by the Spanish oil company.
These included a Euro 500 million sponsorship deal with Real Madrid, which envisages a major re-vamping of the stadium and a re-branding of the club under the Abu Dhabi IPIC label.
Quubaisi’s management style at the Spanish headquarters in Madrid has been described as ‘dictatorial’ by insiders – as the Chairman representing the new owners he made clear that it was he who called the shots and he took centre stage in all the publicity photos at the time (clad this time in western attire).
By the same token Al Quubaisi also approved the USD$2.3 billion purchase of the Canadian registered Coasta Energy in 2013.
Coastal’s major shareholder was the American Oscar Wyatt, recently released from jail for trading offences.
The bulk of Coastal Energy’s assets are in Malaysian and Thailand offshore areas.
But, the questions now being asked about this deal include why should CEPSA, which is a major company backed by Abu Dhabi’s enormous sovereign wealth, choose to carry out such a purchase through a joint venture with a relative minnow – a Jho Low company called Strategic Resources Global (SRG)?
Also, why has this acquisition by one of Spain’s largest companies been transferred off-shore under a shell company based in the Cayman Islands?
This move has limited the transparency of the deal, although it is believed by informed insiders that SRG acquired its percentage of the purchase with an option to sell out to CEPSA at a later date.
According to sources, funds related to this deal were later paid into the same Luxembourg back account at Banque Privee Edmund de Rothschild as the money from Good Star the year before. The bank has yet to make a public response on either of these matters.
Meanwhile, Malaysians investigators are also examining whether once again vehicles linked to 1MDB and the Ministry of Finance have been dragged into this latest deal between Aabar and a Jho Low company?
After all, 1MDB owned a very similarly named company to Jho Low’s Strategic Resources Global (SRG) called Strategic Resources Company (SRC).
So, following an established pattern, did SRC back Jho Low’s SRG bid in the same way that JQ1 was linked to JQ2 and PetroSaudi Seychelles (a Jho Low controlled company) was wrongly identified with PetroSaudi International during the UBG bid?
SRC started off as a subsidiary of 1MDB, managed by Jho Low’s close associate Nik Faisal Arif Kamil, who was the Investment Officer for 1MDB at the time of the UBG buy out (he had been transferred to the job straight from holding an identical post at UBG itself).
SRC was awarded a RM4billion loan acquired from Malaysia’s Retirement Incorporated fund. But, there has been on-going confusion as to where this money has been invested and the company was subsequently moved directly under the Ministry of Finance following sustained criticism of its role at 1MDB.
It is notable that once again this Coastal Energy deal was managed by Goldman Sachs, the same bank that organised 1MDB’s ‘leaky’ bond issues. These were successful ventures for the bank, which helped lead it towards topping the profit league in South East Asia in recent years.
Despite such success, GSI has now retreated from KL to its base in Hong Kong.
Yet its leading banker in the region, the American Tim Leissner remains a prominent socialite in Malaysia, well known for his excellent contacts to key decision makers, such as the Finance Minister Najib Razak and friend Jho Low.
Leissner is now married to the socialite Kimora Lee Simmons, an Asian American model, who has Facebooked about her friendship with Rosmah Mansor, the PM’s all powerful wife.
One final question that is still confusing onlookers into this saga is how can it be that the erstwhile deputy of Khadem Al Quubaisi, his Chief Executive at the Aaber fund, the Kenyan born US national, Badawi Al Husseiney could have possibly have financed the USD$100 million dollar investment made by the Finanace Minster’s son into the production of the film Wolf of Wall Street?
“He simply does not make that kind of money” one associate told Sarawak Report this week. “It’s ridiculous. Never. His salary never approached that sort of level. It’s crazy”
Yet, this is what the Prime Minister’s son has claimed in the face of sustained speculation that the funder of his company was actually Jho Low.
Given the circumstances, would funding by Aabar’s Chief Executive have been any more appropriate?