Malaysiakini News

1MDB cash used to build nightclub empire?

Published:  |  Modified:

A British Virgin Island document may be the link between a Las Vegas nightclub and 1MDB, whistleblower website Sarawak Report claimed.

The document, published by offshore financial centre watchdog website Offshore Alerts, could link the Hakkasan nightclub and restaurant chain to Khadem al-Qubaisi.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that Khadem received US$473 million of funds originating from 1MDB, via a bank account in Luxembourg bank Edmond de Rothschild under the name 'Vasco Trust'.

The bank's CEO Marc Ambroisien had come under fire for clearing the transaction and left the bank in April 2015.

However, according to the November 2015 BVI document, published by Sarawak Report, Ambroisien maintained ties with Khadem.

The document, signed by Ambroisien, showed that he is the director of one Tasameem Strategic Fund, formerly known as Vasco Strategic Fund.

Tasameem Real Estate Company is one of the shareholders of Hakkasan, according to a filing with UK regulators, Sarawak Report said in an emailed statement.

This also indicates that Khadem still has a stake in Hakkasan, despite purportedly relinquishing ties by resigning as chairperson in April, Sarawak Report said.

"Plainly, Vasco and Tasameem remain linked to the same sources of income," Sarawak Report said.

"Sarawak Report believes therefore that the global investigators who are examining Mr Quabaisi’s (Khadem) financial affairs ought soon to be turning their interest to Hakkasan’s billion dollar business."

Khadem bought the Hakkasan brand for GBP69 million in 2009, and expanded into the Las Vegas nightclub scene in 2013, it said.

Hakkasan also has restaurants in 12 locations worldwide, including in Jakarta, Doha, Dubai, Mumbai, New York, San Fransisco and Miami.

Malaysiakini cannot independently verify these claims and has contacted Hakkasan for comment.

Khadem was among four named in the DOJ's lawsuit to seize more than US$1 billion worth of assets allegedly bought using funds stolen from 1MDB.

The other three are fellow Abu Dhabi businessman Mohammed Badawy al-Husseiny, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's stepson and Hollywood producer Riza Aziz, and businessman Jho Low.

The Malaysian government has accused Sarawak Report’s London-based editor Claire Rewcastle-Brown of being part of a conspiracy to topple the prime minister, an allegation which she denies.

Najib has repeatedly denied abusing public funds for personal gain and attorney-general Mohamad Apandi Ali had cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani declined to comment on the latest claims by Sarawak Report.

"I can't comment on anything from the Sarawak Report because it's not the kind of authoritative publication I can rely on," he said at the sidelines of a property forum.

Also read:

Hakkasan denies receiving funds from 1MDB


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