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Sunday, July 2, 2017

UAE envoy to US involved in Malaysia graft scandal: Report

Leaked documents reportedly implicate Emirati ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba in a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal surrounding Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reviewed the court and investigative data and reported on Saturday that the companies connected to Otaiba had received a total of $66 million allegedly from 1MDB stolen funds.

The 1MDB fund was set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 in a bid to turn the capital, Kuala Lumpur, into a financial hub and boost the economy through strategic investments.

In early 2015, however, allegations of a vast international scheme of embezzlement and money-laundering involving 1MDB money began to emerge.

Several investigations were launched into the scandal in several countries.

Malaysia's attorney general linked the $681 million in Najib's personal bank account to companies and bodies which had ties to 1MDB.

Later, Najib was cleared of corruption allegations and the money in his account was said to be a personal donation by the Saudi royal family. However, critics dismissed the ruling, arguing that the transfer of personal donations did not rule out corruption.

The WSJ report said Otaiba’s leaked emails included "descriptions of meetings between Shaher Awartani, an Abu Dhabi-based business partner of Otaiba, and Jho Low, the Malaysian financier the [US] justice department says was the central conspirator in the alleged $4.5 billion 1MDB fraud.”

“A Singapore criminal case against a Swiss banker disclosed $50 million of payments made to the companies connected to Otaiba, including Densmore Investments Ltd. in the British Virgin Islands and Silver Coast Construction & Boring in the UAE,” it added.

Separate documents related to the investigation in Singapore “also describe another $16 million of separate payments to Densmore in the form of loans from a company connected to the alleged fraud,” it pointed out.

The WSJ report further noted that “Low had instructed the men (Otaiba and Awartani) to close their accounts at BSI Bank, a private Swiss bank that investigators in the US, Switzerland and Singapore say played an instrumental role in the alleged 1MDB fraud.”

Otaiba refused to comment on the report, but a spokeswoman for the UAE ٍmbassy in the US said there were “numerous orchestrated dossiers that have been prepared … targeting the ambassador and which are purported to contain hacked emails."

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