Hakkasan Ltd, a company that runs major Las Vegas nightclubs, has denied receiving funds from beleaguered state investment fund 1MDB.
Hakkasan’s legal affairs vice-president, Brandon Roos, in a letter to US financial daily The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said the company had conducted its own “internal review of funding documentation”.
He said in the letter that they remain “fully confident that Hakkasan received capital from a legitimate fund in the Middle East” that was not connected to entities involved in the 1MDB affair.
Roos also said that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) had confirmed Hakkasan was “not the subject or target of their 1MDB investigation”.
The denial comes after the DOJ exposed a US$470 million money trail that stretched from Malaysia to Abu Dhabi to the British Virgin Islands.
Investigators are looking for connections to Hakkasan, which saw itself at the top of the Las Vegas nightclub scene with two US$100 million venues.
Emirati tycoon Khadem al-Qubaisi, a key figure in the 1MDB probe, was last week arrested by the country’s authorities. Qubaisi previously served as Hakkasan’s chairperson.
In a separate letter to WSJ, a lawyer for Hakkasan said the firm’s absence from the civil lawsuits was clear proof that the DOJ did not find it to be “the beneficiary of or a conduit for the laundering of monies illicitly obtained by Qubaisi and his confederates”.
Sources also told WSJ that there was no allegation of any wrongdoing against Hakkasan or its employees.
They confirmed that the US investigation is focused on Qubaisi’s actions, many of them taking place in offshore jurisdictions.
The US government’s inquiries, however, are related to financing that Hakkasan had received during or after 2012, when part of the alleged 1MDB fraud involving Qubaisi took place.
Hakkasan is based in London and controlled by Sheikh Mansour Zayed al-Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of United Arab Emirates and member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.
US investigators are looking into Qubaisi's dealings and funds which were allegedly obtained through fraud.
The Department of Justice, last month, filed lawsuits seeking to freeze US$100 million of real estate that Qubaisi allegedly bought with funds from 1MDB.
Sources also said that investigators were determining if Qubaisi had used funds from 1MDB to help finance the world’s fifth biggest yacht.
Representatives of Sheikh Mansour did not respond to WSJ's request for comment.