The Heat Is On Hakkasan - We Reveal The Link Between 1MDB And The Billion Dollar Nightclub Chain In Vegas!
18 Aug 2016Sarawak 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 Tasameem Real Esate Company LLC, which is the shareholder of Hakkasan, meaning that the two are not separate entities and that Hakkasan is not ‘ring-fenced’, as has been claimed by the managers of Hakkasan.
How Vasco Strategic Fund SPC (Caymans) became Tasameem Strategic Fund (BVI)
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 a character named ‘Prince Faisal bin Turkey bin Bandar Alsaud’, which was also used to send money to Najib in KL.
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 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.
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.
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
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 at the bank 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.
Until just days ago Ambriosien has remained 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 one of these, which was a so-called umbrella investment arm called Vasco Strategic Fund SPC, originally incorporated in the Cayman Islands.
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.
The Tasameem ConnectionVasco Strategic Fund has a clear and direct connection to the Hakkasan shareholder concern, namely the Tasameem group of companies, which are owned by KAQ.
Court documents available from the BVI show that late last year Marc Ambroisien himself was making an application on behalf of a separate company (Ourea S.A.) in his capacity as a Director of another BVI company in the group, named Tasameem Strategic Fund.
The document makes clear that Tasameem Strategic fund BVI was formerly Vasco Strategic Fund in the Cayman Islands.
We repeat that 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. Moreover, Khadem Al Qubaisi remained the Chairman of Hakkasan until April of this year.
Plainly, Vasco and Tasameem remain linked to the same sources of income. Furthermore, KAQ and his company Tasameem still owns Hakkasan, according to its public accounts filed in the UK in May this year (signed off by the new Board members who had been appointed after Khadem Al Qubaisi resigned April 19th).
There have been no announcements to indicate that the Tasameem group has transferred ownership, which we have established belongs to Al Quabaisi, and plainly huge sums were transferred into the company in the period from its expansion in 2013 until its last filed accounts last month.
‘Ring-fenced’?Sarawak Report therefore questions the 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.
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.
That payment was followed by dozens of other major developments over the following three years, fronted by CEO Neil Moffitt, who is cited by the DOJ filing for having signed off on the properties now sequestered from KAQ.
Yet, 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.
Troubling timelinesThe 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:
So, if KAQ was funding the enterprise from other sources, why is this not laid out in the company accounts?
If someone else owns Tasameem, why not tell who?
In which case, the question has to be how did a salaried fund manager gain such a huge sum of $566 million to invest as a ‘shareholder loan” in this nightclub company?
If the money came from Aabar PJS, the genuine subsidiary of IPIC, which KAQ controlled, then was this not referred to in any of the IPIC accounts nor in the public information about Aabar PJS’s slate of investments online, which include references to far smaller investments, but not Hakkasan?
And why is it not mentioned in Hakkasan’s own accounts in the UK?
Indeed, if Aabar PJS was an investor in Hakkasan, would this not this present a stunning conflict of interest, in that Khadem Al Qubaisi was the Chairman of the sovereign wealth fund at the time?
Finally, would it not be somewhat inappropriate for a sovereign wealth fund representing Abu Dhabi, a strict Muslim country, to invest in the alcohol and gambling Meccas of Las Vegas where bare fleshed women are the order of the day?
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.