Sarawak Report ; Same Small Circles - How Hakkasan Boss Neil Moffitt's Nightclubber Friends Keep Doing Business Together
29 March 2017
Sam Nazarian, Los Angeles ‘King of the Night’
A piece of business news emerged last week linked to the Las Vegas end of the 1MDB saga, as the Hakkasan nightclub chain revealed it is planning a merger with the outfit SBE, which is controlled by the man dubbed the Los Angeles ‘King of the Night’, Sam Nazarian.
Hakkasan and its lawyers have been aggressively denying any money has entered the business linked to its owner Khadem al Qubaisi’s half billion dollar kickbacks from 1MDB. However, these claims would appear to merit a great deal more investigation by the authorities.
For starters, exclusive documents obtained by Sarawak Report show that the Hakkasan business (HKK) was held under Khadem al Qubaisi’s (KAQ) Vasco Trust, managed by Edmond de Rothschild bank in Luxembourg.
A diagram of this web of companies, provided by the bank (and obtained exclusively by Sarawak Report) shows how Vasco topped a network of concerns, including Tasameem and the owner of HKK, a vehicle named Grimaud (see diagram above).
The Vasco Trust, beneficially owned by KAQ, was funded between 2012 and 2013 from a series of hundred million dollar payments made by Jho Low controlled companies, including Good Star Limited and Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners, which the US Department of Justice have identified as having been themselves funded by thefts from 1MDB.
Neil Moffitt, CEO of Hakkasan Group and KAQ front man
Sarawak Report has also (exclusively) identified that in late 2012, at the time Hakkasan was being launched in the US, at least $10 million dollars was directly paid by the tainted Vasco Investments SA to the corporate shareholder of Hakkasan, Tasameem Real Estate Company LLC.
Yet Neil Moffitt, the CEO of Hakkasan, has adamantly kept to his line that the business was ring-fenced from any of that dirty money now under investigation by the FBI and DOJ.
The merger with Sam Nazarian’s SBE would appear to be a next step in distancing the business and its finances from the toxic source of 1MDB.
King of the Night
However, this is not the first time Sam Nazarian has been associated with the tight-knit circle around 1MDB. In 2015 Sarawak Report revealed the relationship between 1MDB’s Jho Low, Khadem Al Qubaisi and also Neil Moffitt, whom Las Vegas insiders say was the man who introduced the pair in the first place.
Both the ‘Chinaman’ and the ‘Shiekh’, as Low and KAQ were termed by Moffitt, had a known addiction to Las Vegas’s club scene in which Moffitt was an established operator. Sarawak Report exposed how Moffitt had fronted for KAQ in the purchase of both his Beverley Hills mansion and also his $50 million New York Walker Tower penthouse. This was confirmed by the DOJ:
“Moffitt manages or managed several properties on behalf of QUBAISI.”
the court filing reads and it provides the exact details as to how Moffitt acted as the front man for the two purchases. “Several” implies more than just two properties, leaving plenty of room to speculate over what other acquisitions have been identified by the US investigators, who are still looking into stolen 1MDB assets and preparing criminal charges, expected shortly.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Report has now identified that Hakkasan’s new business prospect, Sam Nazurian, appears to have played an exact same role for Jho Low in fronting similar major property purchases.
1423 Oriole Drive was the former pad of actor Ricado Montalban, sold for a record price to Jho Low
Just like Moffitt, it was Mr Nazurian who appeared to be the purchaser in 2012 of another Hollywood mansion for just under $39 million, which was a record price for the area. Except we now know that the real buyer was Jho Low.
The house, 1423 Oriole Drive, had once been the pad of actor Ricardo Montalban, but was being sold that November by none other than the son of Irish businessman Paddy McKillen, whom Sarawak Report had exclusively reported (in April 2014) to have been in extensive negotiations with parties including Jho Low (for 1MDB) and Khadem Al Qubaisi (for Aabar), who were together attempting to buy out London’s Claridge’s Hotel chain in 2011.
With a no less than $30 million mark up on the price just two years previously the record purchase certainly represented a stunning profit for the McKillens.
The profitable sale to Jho Low was made by the McKillens at a time when the Malaysian and Irishman were tussling over the ownership of the Claridge’s Hotel Group
But, at the time the buyer of 1423 Oriole Drive under the company name Oriole Drive LLC was reported to be Sam Nazarian.
Like Moffitt, Sam Nazarian seemed happy to pose as the wealthy buyer of the most expensive house in Beverly Hills
In fact, records show that he was just the registered manager and the front man for Jho Low, like Moffitt for Low’s collaborator KAQ.
Sam Nazarian was the manager and not the buyer
The suspicions first reported by Sarawak Report in early 2015 that Jho Low was in fact the owner have now been confirmed by none other than the Department of Justice, which included ‘The Oriole Mansion’ in its court filing for the seizure of assets bought with money stolen from 1MDB:
Confirmation from the DOJ that Jho Low paid for mansion not The King of the Night, Sam Nazarian
Sam’s role, therefore, would appear to have been identical towards Jho Low as that of Moffitt towards KAQ. Both of these night crawlers were acting as willing fronts for thieves from 1MDB, who wanted to hide their ownerships of the properties bought with the stolen cash.
And the little circle of close dealings has continued with these mansions, because the KAQ Mansion has recently been liquidated under that seizure, and the buyer was none other than Richard Caring, the London Ivy Restaurant owner, who is abusiness partner of another close clubbing pal of Jho Low’s and KAQ, Ron Burkle.
Ron Burkle – entrepreneur in the loop
Burkle, who owns the Yucaipa group of companies, has also partnered with Sam Nazarian’s SBE to buy up Morgans Hotel Group, whose subsidiary The Light Group was originally purchased by Khadem Al Qubaisi as part of the original Hakkasan acquisitions in a continuing deal with Morgans.
Burkle is definitely one of the crowd. He attended Jho Low’s now notorious billionaire birthday bash in Las Vegas and is another known close consort of Leo DiCaprio, with whom he once shared a New York appartment, according to sources.
With all these sales and mergers executed in such a close circle it leaves plenty more questions to consider about the meaning of Hakkasan’s advertised merger with SBE.