December 18, 2015
Playing games with names – Jho Low’s modus operandi
by The Sarawak Report
The Auditor-General, who is known for his upright approach, is going to have a hard time re-setting a date for the publication of his report into 1MDB – due today, but postponed till further notice.
Like the Attorney- General, Deputy Prime Minister, Head of the Public Accounts Committee, Vice President for UMNO, Special Branch Chief and shortly the Head of the Central Bank, he may find himself replaced first. At least he is still alive, unlike the investigator from the MACC into this dirty business, Anthony Kevin Morais.
Today’s report in the Wall Street Journal shows that 1MDB paid a total of US$850 million into a bogus off-shore company, using the name of the Abu Dhabi fund Aabar, Aabar Investments PJS Ltd. It appears to explain the mystery as to why 1MDB has maintained in its statements and annual reports that it paid some US$2.4 billion in total to Aabar/IPIC, whereas IPIC reports indicate nothing was received.
In short, 1MDB sent the money to a BVI company with virtually the same name as Aabar Investments PJS, but which belonged to somebody else.
Anyone who has followed the PetroSaudi joint venture scandal will recognise a familiar scam with 1MDB purporting to be under the impression it has paid money to one company, when in fact it went to another entirely.
The news follows on from our own expose earlier this week detailing that, contrary to claims by 1MDB, the Seychelles company Good Star Limited belongs entirely to Jho Low. This confirms that US$700 million which 1MDB still claim was paid into their joint venture with PetroSaudi was in fact siphoned off by the Prime Minister’s nominee, who was running 1MDB’s operations and also running off with a great deal of the money.
The Aabar Investments PJS Limited revelation also provides further evidence of a clear ‘modus operandi’ by the youthful Official Advisor to 1MDB, which was the title given to Low. We can point to numerous transactions involving Jho Low and his nightclubbing friend, Aabar’s Khadam Al Qubaisi, which essentially consist of playing games with names to give the impression that shadowy off-shore companies were genuine subsidiaries of major concerns.
These bogus companies, playing in the opaque world of off-shore tax havens, have all turned out to be linked to suspicious losses of money from 1MDB.
PetroSaudi International Limited (Seychelles)
Take PetroSaudi International Limited, Seychelles, which was positioned as a subsidiary to PetroSaudi Holdings Limited (Cayman), itself involved in the joint venture with 1MDB. In fact (after considerable to-ing and fro-ing about how to set up the arrangement) this was a company totally controlled by Jho Low through an investment management deal with one of his own off-shore companies Panama Investment Manager, which gave him control over all its money.
Tarek Obaid had agreed to act as the Director of PetroSaudi International Limited, Seychelles, but in a personal capacity, not linked to the main joint venture partner as alleged.
During its buy out of UBG, orchestrated by Jho Low, who had a major personal stake in the UBG, there was much concern expressed by AmBank officials negotiating the deal about who exactly did own this supposed off-shoot of PetroSaudi (which had received the money eventually used to buy UBG from 1MDB).
They were told that the shady nature of the ownership was owing to the need to conceal the private interest of the King of Saudi Arabia in the deal. They accepted the excuse, which was a lie.
In 2013 the Aabar owned Spanish oil giant CEPSA purchased the Canadian company Coastal Energy for US$2.3 billion, in a deal masterminded of course by their boss the then all-powerful Chairman Khadem Al Qubaisi. Strangely, he did the deal in tandem with a private company owned by none other than Jho Low, which took an option on the sale in its alleged role as ‘facilitator’. That company of Jho Low’s went by the name of Strategic Resources Global. The details of SRG’s involvement have yet to be published, however insiders have intimated that the point of the option was that it could then be valuably sold back to CEPSA.
Given Low’s established history of using 1MDB money as backing for other private deals forged together with his pal Khadem from Aabar (see our exposes on the London Hotel bids of 2011) there can only be questions asked as to the strikingly similar name of the 1MDB subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.
The shadowy nature of SRC International has caused constant comment in Malaysia, set up as it was with RM4 billion borrowed from the public pension fund KWAP, which has never been properly accounted for. One of its known ventures however (through a BVI vehicle naturally) was a joint venture with none other than that sturdy business partner Aabar and KAQ, named none other than Aabar-SRC Strategic Resources Ltd.
Was name play once again at work as money flushed through these off-shore concerns with such similar names and confusion of cross-ownerships? Did, by any chance, money flow in this fashion from the pension fund through 1MDB and its joint ventures with Aabar and into a private deal between Jho Low and Khadem?
We cannot know, because when questioned on these matters, the Finance Minister (cum Prime Minister, cum sole shareholder of 1MDB) hived SRC off from 1MDB and put it under his own Ministry of Finance portfolio, from where he has refused to release transparent accounts ever since. The public money remains unaccounted for!
Move on to what the Australian newspaper describes as the mysterious off-shore company Merryl Capital, which was stuck right in the middle of the unravelling scandal in Australia over the finance company Bridge Global, which Najib (doubtless on the advice of 1MDB’s advisor Jho Low) used to invest the alleged profits (obtained not in cash, but in ‘promissory notes’ mind you) made from the PetroSaudi deal, from which Good Star had siphoned most of 1MDB’s original investment.
As the Australian points out, despite its name, this entity has nothing to do with the more famous Merryl Lynch.
Bridge Partners didn’t pay in cash but in promissory notes — IOUs — which 1MDB then invested in Bridge Global Absolute Return. According to Bridge Global’s prospectus, Bridge Global Absolute Return is managed by Hanhong, a Hong Kong securities company in which it planned to buy a half stake.
Bridge Global Absolute Return owns almost 10 per cent of Bridge Global, making it the company’s second-biggest shareholder behind another mysterious offshore entity, Merrill Capital, which owns 10.2 per cent.
Despite its name, Merrill Capital appears not to be linked to Merrill Lynch, according to Mr Childs’ affidavit. It is instead a UAE company associated with Mr Goh that owns some 8.5 per cent of Avestra.
To cover the Petrosaudi hole, it’s alleged that in 2012 1MDB signed a deal with Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Corporation under which IPIC guaranteed $US3.5bn of bonds issued by 1MDB.
Aabar Investments PJS Ltd
So, it looks like we have an established modus operandi indeed when it comes to the way Jho Low played David Copperfield conjuring tricks with 1MDB’s money, as it slipped away from the public fund that was being administered by his boss the PM, and into companies with names designed to make them sound like a more reputable outfit linked to established 1MDB deals.
The latest revelation that US$850 million was likewise transferred to Aabar Investments PJS Ltd by 1MDB thus follows an established pattern. The WSJ have reported that Aabar has confirmed that this off-shore BVI entity, which was opened to take the money and then closed down agains shortly after, has nothing to do with their own group.
Abu Dhabi have, of course, long since sacked Khadem Al Qubaisi, after all these irregularities came to light at the start of the year. Yet, Malaysia’s PM continues to defend 1MDB and Jho Low and he is obstructing vigorously the attempts to investigate what went wrong with all that missing money.
Other off-shore companies with surprisingly similar names to more reputable firms doubtless wait to be discovered and the 1MDB scandal continues to inevitably unravel in the face of the international investigations underway.