Companies connected to the UAE‘s ambassador to the US received $66 million from offshore accounts that contained money allegedly embezzled from Malaysia‘s 1MDB investment fund, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
In 2015, allegations emerged that billions of dollars were stolen from Malaysia’s state-owned 1MDB.
The WSJ said leaked emails of Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba included “descriptions of meetings between Shaher Awartani, an Abu Dhabi-based business partner of Mr. Otaiba, and Jho Low, the Malaysian financier the [US] justice department says was the central conspirator in the alleged $4.5 billion 1MDB fraud”.
The US justice department said that the billions had been stolen from 1MDB by people close to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The fund is also at the centre of investigations in many other countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing and 1MBD officials have said it has found no evidence of misappropriation.
According to the WSJ, in addition to the meetings between Awartani and Low, “a Singapore criminal case against a Swiss banker disclosed $50 million of payments made to the companies connected to Mr. Otaiba, including Densmore Investments Ltd. in the British Virgin Islands and Silver Coast Construction & Boring in the UAE”.
The WSJ added: “In separate documents reviewed by the Journal related to Singapore’s investigation of alleged 1MDB-linked money laundering, authorities describe Densmore as controlled by Messrs. Otaiba and Awartani. Those documents also describe another $16 million of separate payments to Densmore in the form of loans from a company connected to the alleged fraud.”
Hackers from a group that calls itself “Global Leaks” – which is not affiliated with the software company, GlobaLeaks – began leaking emails from Otiaba’s inbox earlier this month.
According to the WSJ, a number of those emails show communications between Otaiba, Awartani and Low.
“On May 5, 2015, a Dubai-based financial executive working at a company controlled by Messrs. Otaiba and Awartani told Mr. Otaiba in an email that Mr. Low had instructed the men to close their accounts at BSI Bank, a private Swiss bank that investigators in the U.S., Switzerland and Singapore say played an instrumental role in the alleged 1MDB fraud. Densmore held an account at BSI,” the WSJ said.
The WSJ said Otaiba declined to comment on its findings, but a spokeswoman for the UAE embassy told the news organisation that the embassy “noted the existence of numerous orchestrated dossiers that have been prepared … targeting the ambassador and which are purported to contain hacked emails”.
She also said the embassy notes “the context of the role of the UAE in the current suspension of diplomatic and economic relations with the state of Qatar” and as a result, the embassy “will not talk to or respond to any of these dossiers”.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed sanctions on the country on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”, an allegation Doha has rejected as “baseless”.
Last week, the Saudi-led bloc gave Qatar 10 days to comply with 13 demands to end a major diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, insisting, among other things, that Doha shut down Al Jazeera, close a Turkish military base and scale down ties with Iran.