Whilst Swiss prosecutors have dragged their feet for over two years examining a slew of alleged crimes by the Saudi director of PetroSaudi, Tarek Obaid, the said suspect has been observed continuing to live it up as normal in Geneva, wallowing in his usual nightspots and ordering champagne at 6 Star hotels.
Tarek owns a vast apartment in the town, although he is believed to have sold off a large flat and a townhouse in Mayfair London. Meanwhile, his alleged co-conspirator and colleague at PetroSaudi, Patrick Mahoney, inhabits a multi-million West End property in London as well as a ski chalet built in Gstaad.
The pair are under investigation for fraud, money laundering, blackmail, extortion, coercion, endangering the life of others, misleading of the courts and the bribery of foreign public officials amongst other crimes – the Swiss authorities having taken up the complaint of the Swiss national Xavier Justo alongside their own investigations into 1MDB money laundering.
Justo, a former colleague who turned whistleblower over PetroSaudi’s role in the 1MDB affair, ended up in a Thai jail for 18 months based on false allegations designed to cover up their role and that of Najib Razak, according to their own recorded admissions.
Confiscations have already been made by the authorities in the United States of some of Obaid’s assets, which the FBI deduced were bought with the stolen money, in particular the confiscation of $2 million worth of shares in the high tech surveillance firm Palantir. Obaid has aggressively fought to try to keep the shares.
Likewise, Obaid and Mahony have been officially cited (not just by Sarawak Report) over their subsequent involvement in alleged bribery and corruption in Venezuela, where they diverted many of the 1MDB funds to invest in off-shore oil.
Both men have also been highlighted in US Department of Justice court documents for their involvement in funnelling stolen money back to Najib in Malaysia and hundreds of millions more back to Jho Low through a bogus off-shore subsidiary in the Seychelles of PetroSaudi, which was then used as a front to buy up the Taib family and Jho Low owned UBG group in Sarawak for several hundred million dollars also originally stolen from 1MDB.
Therefore, for any bank or law firm presented with requests to harbour hundreds of millions on behalf of Obaid or his companies, it goes without saying that the slightest due diligence would have flagged him up as a suspicious customer.
Nonetheless, given Tarek’s continuing lavish lifestyle (prior to the 1MDB fraud he had been skint, living off maxed-out credit cards) it has been clear to informed observers that the Saudi suspect still has access to at least some of the multi-million dollar proceeds from the money that went missing from his so called ‘joint venture’ with 1MDB back in 2009.
Indeed, those who would like to see justice done have been bemused and frustrated by the slow pace of the investigation and Tarek’s strategic hiring of connected persons to defend his case given the enormous amount of evidence and egregious nature of the plot unleashed to silence Xavier Justo.
So today’s reports in Malaysia that investigators there have at last traced a vast chunk of cash belonging to Tarek Obaid makes shocking sense.
According to The Star Newspaper:
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigating officer, Mohd Afiq Ab Aziz, has filed an application to bar US$340,258,246.87 deposited in a client’s account at law firm Clyde & Co LLP as well as an unspecified amount of money deposited in an intermediate account name of Temple Fiduciary Services at Barclays Bank.
Both the specified and unspecified monies belonged to PetroSaudi Oil Services, which was wholly owned by Tarek Obaid through PSI.
In the affidavit, Afiq said he was one of the investigating officers responsible for the 1MDB probe and he had uncovered information that led him to reasonably believe and suspect that the assets being held or deposited abroad were proceeds from illegal activities, in the course of his duties.
He claimed that the US$340mil formed part of the subject matter or evidence in connection with the conspiracy to defraud or fraud which involved former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Tarek, fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho and other related individuals against 1MDB and its subsidiaries.
The report confirms that Malaysia has sought the cooperation of anti-money laundering authorities in the UK to freeze these funds and presumably to investigate how it was that the law firm Clyde & Co could have conceivably have considered it appropriate to harbour such an obscene amount of money in its client account on behalf of a man of such extensive notoriety?
Likewise. Barclays Bank, whose duties under banking law are even more stringent when it comes to reporting dodgy money?
One assumes the UK authorities, who so far have notably failed to respond to any complaints against Mahony or any of the other UK citizens caught up in 1MDB, will cooperate at last with the Malaysian request and freeze the said sums.
Tarek’s offensive partying might possibly be reined in if they do, presenting the hope that at least some of this cash might finally find its way back to Malaysia rather than being totally wasted on drink, drugs and alleged whoring in expensive hotspots.
Meanwhile, followers of the 1MDB affair will be well aware by now that international law firms have time and again proved themselves to be key conduits for money laundering in this case and Sarawak Report suggests that it is high time their ‘privileged status’ on behalf of clients who claim ‘right of representation’ was brought under far tighter legal controls to prevent such gross abuse in the handling of stolen money.
We have invited Clyde & Co to provide their comment.