Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Link Between 1MDB And The Billion Dollar Nightclub Chain In Vegas

The Heat Is On Hakkasan - We Reveal The Link Between 1MDB And The Billion Dollar Nightclub Chain In Vegas EXCLUSIVE!

The Heat Is On Hakkasan - We Reveal The Link Between 1MDB And The Billion Dollar Nightclub Chain In Vegas EXCLUSIVE!

Hakkasan nightclub promotional
Hakkasan nightclub promotional
Sarawak Report has traced crucial evidence linking the Luxembourg bank accounts, which received hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from 1MDB, with the global Hakkasan nightclub and restaurant chain centred in Las Vegas.
Both the bank accounts, held in the name of Vasco Trust, and Hakkasan are owned by the former Aabar Chairman Khadem Al Qubaisi, who is now the subject of civil seizures of his assets by the US Department of Justice, relating to 1MDB thefts, and also a criminal investigation in Switzerland for suspected “fraud, dishonest management, forgery, money laundering, abuse of public trust and the corruption of foreign officials”.
Sarawak Report has now established a direct link between Vasco Trust and the Al Qubaisi-owned Tasameem Real Esate Company LLC, which is the shareholder of Hakkasan, meaning that Hakkasan is not ‘ring-fenced’ from 1MDB, as has been claimed by the managers of Hakkasan.
In fact one of Vasco’s subsidiaries (Vasco Strategic Fund) was even re-named to become an affiliate of Tasameem (Tasameem Strategic Fund) and it has been managed throughout by Khadem’s key bank manager cum company director, the former Edmond de Rothschild Luxembourg Bank CEO, Marc Ambroisien (who was registered as a Director as late as November 2015, according to BVI court documents).
Vasco Strategic Fund has become part of the Tasameem group of companies, providing a link in the money trail from 1MDB to Hakkasan, which is owned by Tasameem Real Estate Company
Vasco Strategic Fund (whose Director is Marc Ambroisien) changed name to become part of the Tasameem group of companies, providing a link in the money trail from 1MDB to Hakkasan.
The name switch provides a direct link between the Vasco account, which received all its money from 1MDB in 2012/13 and Tasameem, which by 2016 had registered a $566 million shareholder loan facility to its subsidiary Hakkasan.
Indeed Hakkasan’s 2013 accounts, signed off by Al Qubaisi himself, show that by the end of 2013 the Hakkasan Group had already received $266,000,000 in ‘shareholder loans’ from its parent company, which was cited as Tasameem, which is itself also owned by Al Qubaisi:
By 2016 the amount owed to Shareholders had increased to $566 million, according to the accounts
By 2016 the amount owed to Shareholder Tasameem had increased to $566 million, according to the accounts
2013 was the year during which the nightclub chain rapidly expanded with its first key acquisitions in Las Vegas, starting with the Omnia nightclub having opened in April.
Records show the case was filed by Marc Ambroisien in November 2015, as which point he described himself as a Director of Vasco/Tasameem Strategic Fund
Records show the case was filed by Marc Ambroisien in November 2015, when he described himself as a Director of Vasco/Tasameem Strategic Fund

How Vasco Strategic Fund SPC (Caymans)  became Tasameem Strategic Fund (BVI)

We revealed 'KAQ's' other life and his love of clubbing
We revealed ‘KAQ’s’ other life and his love of clubbing
It was Sarawak Report which originally revealed in March last year that over $500 million had been transferred into Khadem Al Qubaisi’s private account, under the name of Vasco Trust, at the Edmond de Rothschild Banque Privee Europe (BPERE) in Luxembourg.
Some of that money was then transferred to the US to buy Al Qubaisi’s Walker Tower penthouse in New York and a Beverley Hills mansion, for which the DOJ have issued a seizure notices.
The Vasco money all came from Jho Low entities, including Good Star Limited and an apparently fictitious character named ‘Prince Faisal bin Turkey bin Bandar Alsaud’, which was also used to send money to Najib in KL.
The original funds transferred from 1MDB into Khadem Al Qubaisi's Vasco Trust account in Luxembourg
The original payments into the Vasco Trust account, which were all transferred from 1MDB via Aabar’s Falcon Bank and Jho Low companies like Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners
However, most of the money acquired by Vasco came from a bogus BVI company named Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners, which the DOJ indictment last month specifically confirmed received $473 million stolen from the two 1MDB ‘power purchase’ loans raised in 2012, using a ‘guarantee’ provided by Al Qubaisi’s Aabar fund in Abu Dhabi.
The DOJ indictment spells out exactly how the power purchase money was stolen - much of it going to the Vasco Trust account
The DOJ indictment spells out exactly how the power purchase money was stolen – much of it going to the Vasco Trust account – this is our pictorial representation of the information
The DOJ have explained in detail how $1.367 was misappropriated from the two power purchase loans raised in May and October of 21012 totalling $3.5 billion, during the so-called ‘Aabar-BVI Phase’ of the billion dollar 1MDB scam.
Falcon Bank was this week barred by Singapore from conducting future business, owing to its role over 1MDB
Falcon Bank was this week barred by Singapore from conducting future business, owing to its role over 1MDB
As shown in the diagram, Goldman Sachs, which had raised the money, first sent the lion’s share of the cash directly to 1MDB accounts held at Falcon Bank in Singapore, which was itself a subsidiary of the Aabar sovereign wealth fund of which Khadem Al Qubaisi (KAQ) was Chairman.
KAQ’s deputy Mohammed Al Husseiny was at the time Chairman of Falcon Bank.
Of this money a total of $1.4 billion was transferred on to the now notorious bogus ‘Aabar BVI’ account, which was held at BSI Bank in Lugano. BSI has already also been shut by Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi IPIC sovereign wealth fund, of which the genuine Aabar is a subsidiary, has confirmed it had no knowledge of the diversion of this cash, which had been paid under the guise of it being a ‘refundable deposit’ for the ‘guarantee’ arranged by Aabar for the loans.
Neil Moffitt, CEO of Hakkasan, has claimed there is no 1MDB money in the group
Neil Moffitt, CEO of Hakkasan, has claimed there is no 1MDB money in the group
From this moment on the money was effectively stolen and the theft could not have taken place without the connivance of KAQ and Husseiney, who were in charge of the genuine Aabar as well as being the shareholders and signatories for the bogus Aabar BVI.
The money was then passed mainly to another bogus company, Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners, this time controlled by Jho Low.
Some also went to Najib’s step-son Riza Aziz’s film production company Red Granite.
From Blackstone, it has been established that around one third of the stolen cash was transferred to Al Qubaisi’s Vasco Trust by early 2013.

The Edmond de Rothschild head banker who oversaw the deal

Marc Ambroisien - now fired from de Rothschild and this week at last resigning from KAQ's private ventures also
Marc Ambroisien – now fired from de Rothschild and this week at last resigning from KAQ’s private ventures also
The man who smoothed the path for this enormous sum of money was the Edmond de Rothschild CEO, Marc Ambroisien, who told KAQ in a recorded phone call that any other bank “like HSBC” would have frozen and reported such a suspicious series of transfers.
However, he was prepared to fix it and could do so, given his position at the private De Rothschild bank.
One week after Sarawak Report reported the existence of the Vasco Trust account in March 2015, Ambriosien, a former French tax inspector, left his position at the Bank Privee Edmond de Rothschild.
However, for over a year he remained managing ‘KAQ’s’ private ventures.
Ambroisien was fired from Edmond de Rothschild, but stayed on managing KAQ's companies
Ambroisien was fired from Edmond de Rothschild, but stayed on managing KAQ’s companies
Until just days ago Ambroisien was a Director in charge of a web of Vasco related companies, according to company information in France and elsewhere. Various arms of the Trust have controlled different interests for Khadem Al Qubaisi.
Of particular relevance to the Hakkasan empire was a so-called umbrella investment arm called Vasco Strategic Fund SPC, originally incorporated in the Cayman Islands in 2011.
Vasco Strategic Fund was incorporated in 2011
Vasco Strategic Fund was incorporated in 2011
Sarawak Report has obtained back statements relating to KAQ’s Vasco Trust, which include transactions by Vasco Strategic Fund, dating back to its ‘setting up fees’ in February 2011.
KAQ's Vasco Trust statements include payments relating to Vasco Strategic Fund
KAQ’s Vasco Trust statements include payments relating to Vasco Strategic Fund

The Tasameem Connection

Court documents available from the BVI show that late last year the former Edmond de Rothschild CEO Marc Ambroisien made an application on behalf of a separate company (Ourea S.A.) in his capacity as a Director of Tasameem Strategic Fund.
The document makes clear throughout that Tasameem Strategic Fund BVI was formerly Vasco Strategic Fund in the Cayman Islands.
In November 2015 Marc Ambroisien remained a Director of Tasameem Strategic Fund, linked directly to the trust which received hundreds of millions from 1MDB
In November 2015 Marc Ambroisien remained a Director of Tasameem Strategic Fund, linked directly to the trust which received hundreds of millions from 1MDB
While Ambroisien was no longer acting for KAQ’s de Rothschild bank accounts by this date in November 2015, he was still managing many of KAQ’s private interests. He appears to have started resigning from those positions in favour of his boss only in the last few days (see below). Khadem Al Qubaisi, meanwhile remained the Chairman of Hakkasan right up until April of this year.
Ambroisien only resigned from KAQ's private companies, such as this French property company, a few days ago
Ambroisien only resigned from KAQ’s private companies, such as this French property company, a few days ago
Plainly, therefore, Vasco and Tasameem have been linked to the same sources of income and the same management.
Tasameem still owns Hakkasan, according to its public accounts filed in the UK in May this year (which were signed off by the new Board members appointed after Khadem Al Qubaisi resigned April 19th).

‘Ring-fenced’?

Sarawak Report therefore questions claims by Hakkasan that its investments are ‘ring-fenced’ from money stolen from 1MDB and that there is no connection between the entertainment group and its owner (KAQ’s) other financial interests.
Hakkasan’s accounts, which are filed at Companies House in London, state specifically that the owner of the company is Tasameem Real Estate Company, which along with other affiliated companies of the same name belong to Al Qubaisi.
New board member, Senator Norm Coleman - says he checked out Hakkasan and can vouch there is no 1MDB cash
New board member, Senator Norm Coleman –   can he vouch there is no 1MDB cash?
The accounts also specify that much of the investment into the group has come from a $566 million ‘shareholder loan’ provided by Tasameem.
In fact, the expenditures into the Hakkasan group are estimated to have been well over a billion dollars since it began its massive and rapid expansion, beginning with the opening of the Omnia nightclub in Vegas in April 2013.
Since it is now established that a subsidiary of Vasco Trust subsequently became an affiliate of Tasameem, both managed by the former bank manager who managed Khadem Al Qubaisi’s affairs (until he finally resigned a few days ago), it is plain that there are indeed direct links between Hakkasan and Khadem’s 1MDB funded operations, meaning money could have flowed between them.

Troubling timelines

The concerns about Hakkasan’s more than abundant sources of cash are heightened by some troubling timelines.  The Hakkasan brand was bought up by KAQ as a relatively small restaurant concern in London in 2007 for £69 million.
In early 2013 the major expansion into the Vegas nightclub scene began – just a few months after the millions started arriving into the Vasco Trust from 1MDB.
As late as last month the group was still promoting its on-going expansion and also the fact that it is still owned by Tasameem:
The Holmes Report July 2016
The Holmes Report July 2016
Given that Sarawak Report has already established that Khadem Al Qubaisi, together with his brother owns Tasameem Real Estate Company and that he is the sole shareholder of its affiliate Tasameem Investment S.A. BVI, there remains the question as to how a salaried fund manager obtained $566 million to invest as a shareholder loan in this nightclub company?
Latest 2015 accounts show the current shareholder loan is $566 million
Latest 2015 accounts show the current shareholder loan is $566 million
Sarawak Report believes, therefore, that the global investigators who are examining Mr Quabaisi’s financial affairs ought soon to be turning their interest to Hakkasan’s billion dollar business.
KAQ signed off Hakkasan's 2013 accounts
KAQ signed off Hakkasan’s 2013 accounts

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Samia Yusuf, Olympics Dreamer WHo Died as A Refugee

Samia Yusuf Omar Earned Fame as a Runner, But Died as a Refugee. A New Comic Honors Her.

"An Olympic Dream," a new graphic novel about Samia Yusuf Omar, was first released in English in April 2016. Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
“An Olympic Dream,” a new graphic novel about Samia Yusuf Omar, was first released in English in April 2016. Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
This article by Daniel Gross originally appeared on PRI.org as part of the Across Women's Lives project on July 19, 2016. It is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.
The terrible news reached Teresa Krug by way of a somber YouTube video: Samia Yusuf Omar, a Somali sprinter who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean. Omar had made her name as a sprinter. When she died as a refugee, athletes and journalists were stunned.
“It was just this disbelief that an Olympic athlete would be in the position of being a refugee,” said Krug, a freelance journalist who befriended Omar in Somalia. “If this person couldn't make it, what kind of hope is there for other people?”
Omar's life has now been adapted into a nonfiction comic, “An Olympic Dream,” by the German illustrator Reinhard Kleist. Four years after Omar's death, her story is more relevant than ever. The refugee crisis continues, and the summer Olympics are fast approaching. This year, there will even be a team of refugee athletes.
By focusing on Omar's remarkable life, not just her death, “An Olympic Dream” humanizes a crisis that too often seems abstract. Kleist's empathetic and emotional portrait of Omar, which draws heavily on Krug's reporting, makes the case for new types of journalism focused on people, not just politics.
Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
At the start of “An Olympic Dream,” it's 2008 and the family of Samia Yusuf Omar is looking for a television. They wander around the Somali capital of Mogadishu until they find one. On the flickering screen, they watch Omar line up on a track in Beijing. She looks thin. When the starting gun fires, Omar lags behind. She wins the hearts of the crowd not because she does well in the race, but because her determination shows through anyway.
When Omar returns to Somalia, she keeps training. Kleist's drawings are dynamic and at times dramatic: In one panel, Omar runs through the crowded streets of Mogadishu, dodging religious hardliners from al-Shabab. When she runs on the bombed-out track of Coni Stadium, she gets flashbacks to Beijing. Two children count off her times in lieu of a stopwatch.
Mogadishu is no place for an Olympic athlete, and Omar eventually decides to leave her life and family in pursuit of a dream. She travels to Ethiopia to find a team. “This had become her single mission in life,” Krug remembered. “To find a coach and make it to the Olympics.”
Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
Kleist made the unusual decision to narrate much of his book through Facebook posts, which are loosely based on interviews with Krug and Omar's sister. “I want to start training again,” reads one post. “I keep thinking about Beijing. Where I stayed, I could see the Olympic flame. It was like seeing the world.”
It's an elegant approach to dramatize a story that was so often filtered through the prism of social media. After Krug helped Omar create a Facebook account, they used the platform to stay in touch. Their last contact was a message Omar wrote to Krug, explaining that she had left Ethiopia for Libya, and was hoping to cross to Italy.
Omar's journey from Ethiopia to Libya now seems unsettling familiar. She pays human traffickers who take her on a dangerous journey through the desert—a route that thousands upon thousands of migrants have taken. Kleist's scenes of the desert are harsh and lonely. A dozen people squeeze into a little car, which speeds through the endless desert trailing a long cloud of dust.
Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
Scenes like these aim to help readers deeply imagine a crisis that has started to seem impersonal. “We don't even take notice of the number anymore,” writes Kleist in his introduction. Too often, he says, we forget “that abstract numbers represent human lives.”
In 2012, Krug wrote for Al Jazeera about her reactions to Omar's death. She felt “denial that I'd never seen her again, anger that I hadn't done more to help her, or that the media — members of my profession — only cared now that she was gone.”
Krug is skeptical that much has changed since then. In 2015, thousands of African migrants died while trying to cross the Mediterranean. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled their country and face similar risks.
Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
Still, Krug is enthusiastic about new approaches to nonfiction storytelling like “An Olympic Dream.”
“I didn't realize the power, maybe, of a book like this,” she said. “Even as journalists, you get fatigued. We need to be pursuing other ways of presenting stories.”
Detail, "An Olympic Dream." Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero
Detail, “An Olympic Dream.” Credit: Courtesy of SelfMadeHero

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The DoJ 1MDB complaint analysed:



The US Department of Justice’s complaint seeking the recovery of assets related to the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB, is compelling reading. In a 136-page filing, a remarkable web of money transfers and illicit purchases is exposed. Several banks are involved in it and three more have since been rebuked by the Monetary Authority of Singapore for failing to implement proper money laundering checks. 

So who comes out of it in the best and worst shape? 

Here is a quick guide: 

•  Goldman Sachs. 
Mentioned extensively in the document, but that is no surprise, and the complaint does not tell us anything we did not already know. It confirms Goldman’s eye-watering fees and commissions. Of the $1.75 billion raised through bonds in May 2012, known internally as Project Magnolia, Goldman took $192.5 million, equating to 11% of the principal; and of the $1.75 billion it raised in October that year, known as Project Maximus, Goldman appears to have taken $113.74 million. 

Goldman is further embarrassed by the publication of emails between employees and a 1MDB officer: among them the odd revelation that Jho Low, a Malaysian national who advised on the creation of TIA, 1MDB’s predecessor, and one of the central figures of the scandal, addressed his Goldman contact – believed to be Tim Leissner, the former southeast Asia chairman, who left the bank in February – as 'bro’. 

Crucially, however, Goldman is not accused of any wrong-doing in the complaint. It is alleged that, among other things, $577 million of the first bond deal was diverted to a Swiss bank account, which had nothing to do with 1MDB’s supposed purpose, but it is not alleged that Goldman knew that was going to happen. Nevertheless, Goldman’s problems are not over, as it is being investigated separately by the DoJ about whether it violated the Bank Secrecy Act in its work for 1MDB in 2012 and 2013. 

•  AmBank. 

Of all Malaysian banks, this is by far the most closely linked to the scandal, since it was at AmBank that the person referred to as "Malaysian Official 1" – understood to be prime minister Najib Razak, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing – held his accounts. 

The complaint says that between March 21 and 25, 2013, $681 million was sent to one of these accounts, which had earlier received $50 million of other payments from accounts linked to diverted bond proceeds. 

Using a different AmBank account, just over $620 million was then sent back again in the other direction in August that year. These are the sums that the Malaysian attorney general notoriously described as a personal donation from the Saudi royal family, concluding that there was no case for Najib to answer. 

AmBank was also the originating bank for a number of transfers in 2011 from 1MDB to an account known as Good Star, which was beneficially owned by Jho Low and which the DoJ allege was used to launder more than $400 million of funds into the US: "after which these funds were used for the personal gratification of Low and his associates." 

•  DBS, 

Standard Chartered and UBS. Although none are mentioned in the DoJ complaint, a day after its release the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced its own findings into 1MDB-related fund flows through Singapore. 

It announced "instances of control failings" in all three banks and in some cases "weaknesses in the processes for accepting clients and monitoring transactions. There was also undue delay in detecting and reporting suspicious transactions." 

The MAS says there were lapses in specific processes and by individual officers: "The lapses were serious in their own right, and will be met by firm regulatory actions against the banks." 

All three banks say they notified MAS with concerns about fund flows, so the MAS’s objection seems to be around the pace and detail with which these notifications happened and indeed that clients were accepted in the first place. 

•  BSI Bank was thrown out of Singapore in May by the MAS "in view of its serious breaches of AML requirements and poor management oversight, and gross misconduct by some of the bank’s staff." 

•  Falcon Private Bank’s Singapore branch has also been under constant MAS scrutiny. The MAS’s latest announcement speaks of "substantial breaches of AML regulations, including failure to adequately assess irregularities in activities pertaining to customers’ accounts and to file suspicious transaction reports." 
MAS says it is still examining information on Falcon from the bank’s Switzerland head office. 

•  Deutsche Bank also makes a significant appearance in the DoJ complaint. Deutsche handled a $1 billion-equivalent foreign exchange transfer from 1MDB into the bank account of a joint venture between 1MDB and PetroSaudi, of which $700 million was eventually diverted to the Good Star account. 

However the complaint does not explicitly criticize Deutsche here, instead accusing 1MDB senior management of making "material misrepresentations and omissions to Deutsche Bank officials". 
The complaint prints a lengthy transcript of a 2009 call between a Deutsche Bank employee, a Deutsche Bank supervisor and a 1MDB officer, and another with a Bank Negara official. The exchange shows Deutsche asking questions, albeit somewhat toothless ones, about where proceeds were going and apparently being lied to. 

•  RBS Coutts also appears in this section, since it held the Good Star account into which the funds were being sent. According to the complaint, RBS Coutts records show that Good Star Limited was formed in the Seychelles in 2009 and that Jho Low opened the Good Star account at an RBS Coutts branch in Singapore in June 2009. Deutsche also handled a 2011 $110 million transfer from 1MDB to Good Star. 

•  JPMorgan and Wells Fargo also appear. JP Morgan (Suisse) held an account related to the contentious 1MDB-PetroSaudi JV (although this one appears to have been legitimate), and JPMorgan Chase was the correspondent bank for Deutsche’s and AmBank’s wire transfers that ended up in the Good Star account. JPMorgan was also the correspondent bank for transfers of funds from the Good Star account to the accounts of a Saudi prince who co-founded PetroSaudi, from which they were then apparently transferred to Malaysian official 1. Saudi Arabia’s Riyad Bank also enters the story here, as the Saudi prince in question had his account there. Wells Fargo was the correspondent bank on some transfers from the Good Star account to this prince, and is also linked to the purchase of a Bombardier aircraft using 1MDB funds. 

And Citibank is named as a correspondent bank which handled, among other things, funds that ended up in a BSI Bank account in Switzerland through which some of the bond proceeds from 2012 were alleged by the DoJ to have been diverted. One name that does not appear anywhere in the complaint is CIMB. 

Earlier this year Nazir Razak, the CIMB chairman and the brother of the prime minister, was linked to the scandal after he disbursed $7 million of funds to various politicians and political groups, apparently at the instruction of the prime minister, and believing them to have been legitimate campaign contributions. He stepped aside to allow himself to be investigated by his own board and by Ernst & Young and was exonerated by both. An interview with Nazir, including his views on the scandal, will appear in the September edition of Euromoney.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Spectacular Carnival of Thievery


Najib and Rosmah and some peasant
What could they have been thinking?
Among all the questions triggered by the announcement last week that the US government had seized US$1 billion from assets stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd since 2009, the biggest one is perhaps this: How on earth did they think they could get away with it?
That cool billion announced by US Attorney General Loretta Lynch was only a small part of the total. Billions are gone, and gone so utterly flamboyantly. Usually stealing money is done in the dark, as quietly as possible.
Did the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, and his merry band, especially Jho Taek Low, the Penang-born wunderkind, simply believe nobody would notice as the billions would disappear irretrievably into real estate in New York and California, into a US$35 million executive jet, into Las Vegas gambling debts, into paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claud Monet, into a billion or so into Najib’s personal account, into a vast outlay of personal jewelry adorning Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor?
Nobody would remember that shopping trip aboard a private jet by Rosmah to Dubai that was disguised as a trip to collect an award in Turkey? The shopping trips to Monaco and Milan and New York and Paris? The stunningly garish wedding on the island of Langkawi last year for Najib’s daughter?  It has been called one of the most lavish in history.
Both Najib and 1MDB have defended themselves vehemently, blaming dark forces for their troubles – most recently, after the US government announcement, unspecified “political enemies.”  Perhaps the dark force was President Obama, with whom Najib previously played golf, but almost certainly will never do again. Perhaps it was the Chinese Malaysians, out to keep ethnic Malays in penury forever. Perhaps it was hantus – ghosts – or bomohs, witch doctors hired by former Prime Minister Mahathir, who is sticking to his vow to put Najib in jail. Or when in extremis, blame the Jews.
Instead, he is said to have sent his UMNO bulldog and tame shyster Mohamad Shafee Abdullah, to Washington to present probably justified evidence of the crookedry of Mahathir’s sons, along with five members of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, praised by the US Justice Department for its courage in pursuing Najib until one of its prosecutors was murdered and the attorney general was forced out and its report was squashed.
Najib could have stolen, say, US$150 million, as he did a couple of times as defense minister, particularly US$180-million odd in bribes on the purchase of Scorpion submarines. Or skimming off millions on the purchase of patrol boats and Sukhoi jets.  That seemed okay. Those purchases were questioned in the parliament and he got away with them. But US$681 million in his own pocket in one go and another few score millions later? US$3.5 billion, according to the US attorney general? US$4 billion in laundered funds, the Swiss say?
It is a question we have asked earlier. Did they think nobody would notice the magnums of Cristal champagne that Jho Low, who convinced Najib to establish 1MDB back in 2009, was pouring into an A-list of Broadway blondes in New York? That nobody saw the pictures in the New York Post of Jho Low opening the magnums amid sparklers and women in snakeskin dresses? For months, even years, Jho Low has made himself ludicrous as a kind of Stage Door Johnny in New York.
Nobody noticed that he was using letters of guarantee on 1MDB to attempt to buy three of London’s grandest hotels? That hundreds of millions were going into a 300-foot yacht named Equanimity owned by Jho Low?
What other country or individuals would steer millions of state-owned sovereign money into the making of the Wolf of Wall Street, produced by Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, Rosmah’s issue by a previous marriage?
Financiers in Abu Dhabi noticed, along with the gumshoes of at least six other governments who are involved in the grim chase for the money and the perps. 1MDB is believed to face debt obligations of more than US$6.481 billion to units of the Gulf emirate including US$1.75 billion on bonds guaranteed by International Petroleum Investment Corporation (IPIC) of Abu Dhabi.
At least US$3.5 billion of the missing funds were in payments by 1MDB to what somebody thought was Aabar Investments PJS in Abu Dhabi. Instead, the money went to Aabar BVI, an evil twin established in the British Virgin Islands. The money apparently has disappeared. Nobody noticed?
An official from the FBI, during last week’s press conference, mused that the case followed the plot of the Wolf of Wall Street, a black comedy in which the protagonist, riding a wave of too-easy money, slid into a spectacular life of decadence that led to his ruin.  To the adage that the movies should be more like life, in this case, life is more like the movies.  And of course Riza Aziz, Rosmah’s son, is a co-producer. Life and the movies tie neatly together. Jho Low, all smiles, attended the prize festivities.

Still, in the wake of all these astounding hijinks, it’s said by the prime minister to be somebody else’s fault. A plot to dispossess the Malays of their future – something that UMNO has not been doing for the past several decades, including under Mahathir, apparently. But who knew?
The Singaporeans, the Swiss, the French, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Australia, among other nations have all joined the plot. It is the world against Najib, merrymaker, only out for a good time and to make sure Rosmah has enough jewelry

COPIED FROM ASIA SENTINEL which is being blocked in Malaysia

Friday, July 22, 2016

Follow the Money: 'The Wolf of Wall Street' Corruption Timeline


Riza Aziz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jho Low
Rob Kim/Taylor Hill/Getty Images/Jun Sato/WireImage

How the meeting of two well connected Malaysian teenagers in the U.K. ignited an international money-laundering scandal that swept into Hollywood, sucked in its hottest star and led to the biggest Department of Justice asset seizure in history.

Since the Department of Justice filed the biggest forfeiture complaint in U.S. history on Wednesday, much of the film industry and beyond has come to understand how Leonardo DiCaprio and his hit 2013 biographical comedyThe Wolf of Wall Street have become engulfed in a major embezzlement scandal alleged to involve billions of dollars.
But few might appreciate that the whole story started almost two decades earlier, back when a baby-faced DiCaprio was still basking in the post-Titanic "Leo-Mania" limelight and two Malaysian teenagers were sent to boarding school in the U.K.
Here's THR's look at the chronology of corruption.
1998 
A 17-year-old Jho Taek Low (now 35), otherwise known as Jho Low and the third child of Malaysian businessman Larry Low, is sent to the private school of Harrow in the U.K. to study for his A-levels (the U.K. equivalent of the SAT). It is here where he meets Riza Aziz, the stepson of rising Malaysian politician Najib Razak. Aziz, according to Low, was studying at “a nearby school.”
2000
Low leaves Harrow and heads to the venerable Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he would graduate in 2005 with a BSc Economics, majoring in finance.
2008
After graduating from the London School of Economics in 2000, Aziz is reported to have worked at KMPG and then at HSBC’s London base from 2005 as a low-level banker. But the financial crash of 2007-2008 sees him leave the company.
April 3, 2009
Having become deputy prime minister in 2004, Razak is sworn in as Malaysian prime minister following the resignation of Abdullah Badawi, who had seen his government lose its two-thirds majority in the 2008 general election.
April 8, 2009
Low is appointed official advisor to the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), a sovereign wealth fund established to manage the oil revenue from the Malaysian state of Terengganu. The Justice Department alleges that he had actually been involved in establishing the fund earlier in the year, with the assistance of Goldman Sachs.
July 2009
Prime minister Razak transforms the TIA into a federal entity, in September changing its name to 1MDB, the 1Malaysia Development Berhad. Its mission is to create “sustainable economic development by forging strategic global partnerships and promoting foreign direct investment.”
August 2009
Low reportedly hires Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s super-yacht, Tatoosh, and invites Razak, his wife (and Aziz’s mother) Rosmah Mansor and Prince Turki and Tarek Obaid, two Saudi royals who had set up U.K.-based business PetroSaudi International (PSI), for a meeting in St. Tropez. The French Riviera would become a regular backdrop for the scandal.
September 2009
1MDB and PSI form a joint venture whose stated purpose was to look at energy rights in Turkmenistan and Argentina. 1MDB pours $1 billion of public Malaysian money into the venture, however $700 million is immediately siphoned off as a “loan repayment” into an account held by shell company called Good Star Ltd., based in the Seychelles and controlled by Low. At the time, Low has no official position with 1MDB or PSI.
The same month and now flush with money, Low hits the U.S. club scene. The New York Postdescribes him as an “international man of mystery” after he racks up a $160,000 bar bill at nightspot Avenue during September’s New York Fashion Week. In October, he reportedly turns up at Lindsay Lohan’s 23rd birthday, sending 23 bottles of Cristal champagne to the actress at the 1OAK club in Las Vegas, a city where a month later he’d throw himself a lavish birthday bash. He’d top this with a notorious party in Vegas in 2012, a secretive event that featured a firework-strewn performance by Britney Spears, dwarf oompa loompas and celebrity guests including Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, Paris Hilton and Leonardo DiCaprio. By 2012, however, DiCaprio was already a regular fixture at Low’s side.
Early 2010
Low starts enhancing his property portfolio with luxury real estate in New York and California. Among his first purchases are a $24 million apartment in the Park Laurel condominiums in Manhattan and a $17.5 million mansion in Beverly Hills. Both were bought via shell companies and later sold to Aziz, according to the Justice Department.
February 2010
Low sets up his personal Jynwell Capital investment fund in Hong Kong with his older brother Szen Low. The fund was later used to control various assets in the U.S., including the luxury L'Ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills, bought for $44.8 million, according to the Justice Department. Low would later claim Jynwell was set up as an advisory company for his family's legacy assets.
July 2010
DiCaprio and Hilton are among a group Low flies to South Africa to watch the soccer World Cup. Also invited is Joey McFarland, Hilton’s celebrity booker and party planner. Later that month, Hilton is spotted in St. Tropez with Szen Low, where the Malaysian sibling reportedly took part in a $2.2 million champagne-ordering competition at Les Caves du Roy nightclub.
September 2010
Aziz establishes Red Granite Pictures in Los Angeles, with McFarland installed as partner and vice chairman. It would eventually set up office in the same Sunset Boulevard building as DiCaprio's Appian Way.
May 2011
1MDB sends another $330 million to its joint venture with PSI, money which  according to banned Malaysian publication The Edge — was wired directly to Low’s shell company Good Star.
May 9, 2011
Red Granite poaches a trio of industry veterans from Avi Lerner's Millennium/Nu Image banner; Danny Dimbort and Christian Mercuri to head up international sales and Joe Gatta to become head of production, overseeing the film slate.
May 11, 2011
The Wolf of Wall Street is announced. Just eight months after being established, Red Granite throws a spectacular launch party at the Cannes film festival, where it would launch the long-gestating $100 million film. Low, Aziz and DiCaprio would attend the million-dollar bash, at which Kanye West and Jamie Foxx sang "Gold Digger" on stage.
The film is acquired from Warner Bros. Despite winning the rights to develop Jordan Belfort's memoir with DiCaprio's Appian Way in 2007, it had stalled at the studio due to the R-rated content. THR understands that several parties were interested in picking up the project, but it was DiCaprio who ensured his friends at Red Granite came away with the contract.
July 2011
Low makes his splashiest property purchase yet, paying $31 million to a tech entrepreneur for the 4,825-square-foot Time Warner Center penthouse in New York overlooking Central Park, previously occupied by Jay-Z and Beyonce. At over $6,400 per square foot, the deal is the highest ever at the luxury condominium tower.
May 2012
Goldman Sachs, which had been looking to expand into Asia’s emerging markets, issues the first round of bonds for 1MDB. $3.5 billion is raised via two bonds of $1.75 billion issued in May and September, with the money set to go towards purchasing power plants. The bonds were guaranteed by Abu Dhabi’s sovereign petro wealth fund IPIC, run by Khadem al-Qubaisi, whom Low is reported to have met on the U.S. club scene in Vegas in 2010.
In exchange for this guarantee, 1MDB says it paid IPIC approximately $1.37 billion, more than 40 percent of the net proceeds raised. However, IPIC later said it never received this money. Instead, it is transferred to a British Virgin Islands-registered corporation called Aabar Investments PSJ, which bares a similar name to Aabar, a subsidiary of IPIC (and also run by Al-Qubaisi). The new Aabar Investments PSJ had Al-Qubaisi and his CEO at the Abu Dhabi-based Aabar, Mohamed Al-Husseiny (more on him later), as directors.
Both IPIC and Aabar later asserted that Aabar Investments PSJ was not owned by either entity.
For its work in arranging the bond offering and underwriting the notes, Goldman Sachs was to be paid a total of $192.5 million, roughly 11 percent of the principal amount, which is considered an unusually high commission. It would issue more bonds for 1MDB later
June 2012
Money starts flowing out of the fake Aabar account. Among the various transfers made are more than $472 million the DoJ alleges went to accounts controlled by Al-Qubaisi, $66 million to accounts of Al-Husseiny and $238 million sent in three bunches between June and November 2012 to a Singapore bank account belonging to Red Granite Capital, owned by Aziz. $94.3 million of this money is alleged to have been used to fund luxury real estate, including Low's previously-mentioned properties in Beverly Hills and New York and a luxury London mansion near Buckingham Palace, which was bought through a shell company for $33 million. A further $64 million of the money received by Red Granite Capital went to set up Red Granite Pictures and was directed into the film production company's account at City National Bank.
August 2012
Production on The Wolf of Wall Street kicks off in New York.
November 2012
As a 38th birthday present, Low and Red Granite spend a reported $600,000 to buy DiCaprio the best actor Oscar statuette won by Marlon Brando in 1953 for On the Waterfront. More is splashed at a party thrown for the actor, where Red Granite execs reportedly rack up a bill of over $1 million on a competition to see who could order the most champagne. Speaking to THR, a source described the night as "pure debauchery." 
June 2013
Red Granite picks up the production rights to another long-gestating project, Dumb and Dumbersequel Dumb and Dumber To, which it will finance.
July 15 2013
Red Granite files a lawsuit against Dumb and Dumber producers Brad Krevoy and Steve Sabler, seeking to exclude them from involvement as producers on the sequel. The two assert that their contract from the original production says they are to be involved in any remake or sequel
July 22, 2013
Krevoy and Sabler file counterclaims against Red Granite, asserting that “no one in Hollywood will trust” McFarland and Aziz in the future and that their experience in the cinema industry consisted of “cavorting at nightclubs with Paris Hilton.”
November 2013
Low and McFarland attend DiCaprio's 39th star-studded birthday party at the Tao Downtown and are reported to be among those buying large quantities of champagne. The proceeds from the mark-up on the champagne are donated to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which raises $3 million from the event.
December 17, 2013
DiCaprio, Low, Aziz and McFarland attend The Wolf of Wall Street world premiere in New York. The film is released wide on December 27, earning $18.4 million on its opening weekend and reaching the fifth spot. Although it would bring in only $117 million domestically, its dazzling international haul of $275 million would push it to $392 million, making the film Scorsese’s top grossing title of all time by February 2014.
January 12, 2014
At the Golden Globes ceremony, DiCaprio wins for best performance in a musical or comedy. On stage, he thanks Low, Aziz and McFarland for “being not only collaborators, but taking a risk on this movie.”
January 16, 2014
The Wolf of Wall Street is nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, best actor and best director, yet fails to win a single one at the March 2 ceremony.
April 2014
Krevoy and Sabler amend their original lawsuit against Red Granite regarding the Dumb and Dumber sequel to claim that the company had committed racketeering. "Red Granite is funded with monies that include proceeds from offenses against a foreign nation that involve bribery of public officials, or misappropriation, theft, or embezzlement of public funds by a public official," it asserted, the first time Red Granite was linked openly with corruption in Hollywood.
June 2014
Low takes delivery of his biggest purchase to date, the 300-foot super-yacht Equanimity. Reported to have cost $125 million, the boat comes complete with a spa, gym, sauna, Turkish bath and pool, plus nine staterooms that can accommodate up to 26 guests. 
July 2014
Red Granite requests that racketeering allegations be dismissed from Krevoy and Sabler's lawsuit, and the case is settled, with both sides reaching a confidential agreement.
August 2014
In an interview with the New York Times that came amid growing questions about Red Granite's financing, Aziz asserted that its principal investor was Al-Husseiny, the CEO of Aabar (and director of Aabar Investments PJS), and that the company's previous silence regarding the matter was because Al-Husseiny didn't want to be solicited by other producers. "I have known Riza for many years and have done business with Red Granite Pictures since its inception,” Al-Husseiny said in a statement.
November 2014
Universal releases Dumb and Dumber To in the U.S. Despite poor reviews, the comedy sequel would gross over $169.1 million globally.
April 2015
Al-Qubaisi and Al-Husseiny are fired from their positions at IPIC and Aabar in Abu Dhabi. Two months later Aabar Investments PJS, the look-alike company based in the British Virgin Islands used to transfer money into accounts held by Aziz, Low and Al-Qubaisi, is liquidated.
July 2015
With rumors circulating, Low is reported to have taken refuge in Taiwan, which has no extradition treaty with Malaysia or the U.S.
October 2015
Red Granite announces it is to develop a remake of the 1973 Steve McQueen classic Papillon.
February 2016
Tim Leissner, Goldman Sachs' Southeast Asia chairman who became one of the company's star bankers thanks to his work with the 1MDB investment fund, helping orchestrate the billion-dollar bond issues, steps down, relocating to Los Angeles with his wife, reality TV star and Russell Simmons' ex Kimora Lee Simmons. Days after leaving Goldman Sachs, Leissner is reportedly issued a subpoena by prosecutors at the Department of Justice looking into the possible embezzlement of 1MDB funds.
May 2016
It is revealed that the FBI is investigating the properties in Beverly Hills and New York owned by Riza Aziz. Meanwhile, from a yacht at the Cannes Film Festival, Red Granite execs meet buyers to sell Papillon, now with Charlie Hunnam attached to star, and to discuss another major project in the pipeline, George Washington film The General.
July 20, 2016
The Department of Justice files the largest forfeiture complaint in U.S. history, citing $1 billion of assets owned by Low, Aziz and Al-Qubaisi, and the future profits of The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio is referenced in the filings as "Hollywood Actor 1."

A follow-up statement from Red Granite asserts that, to its knowledge, "none of the funding it received four years ago was in any way illegitimate and there is nothing in today’s civil lawsuit claiming that Red Granite knew otherwise." It added that the company was cooperating with all inquiries and is "confident that when the facts come out, it will be clear that Riza Aziz and Red Granite did nothing wrong."