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Swiss authorities have stepped up their involvement in the growing Malaysian corruption scandal that has engulfed The Wolf of Wall Street, its producer Red Granite and star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Less than a month after the U.S. Justice Department filed the biggest forfeiture seizure in its history, Swiss criminal investigators are now probing two of the lesser known individuals cited in the complaint, namely Middle Eastern executives who were allegedly instrumental in helping launder billions of dollars into the U.S.
According to the Financial Times, the Swiss are probing Khadem al-Qubaisi, the former head of Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) sovereign wealth fund, and his colleague Mohamed Badawy al-Husseiny, who headed up IPIC subsidiary Aabar.
Al-Qubaisi and al-Husseiny are accused of setting up a fake look-alike Aabar account in the British Virgin Islands, into which $1.37 billion — money that was intended to go to the real Aabar in Abu Dhabi as payment for guaranteeing two Malaysian bonds worth $3.5 billion — was deposited in 2012.
From the fake Aabar account, hundreds of millions are alleged to have swiftly flowed into accounts held by al-Qubaisi and al-Husseiny, alongside Red Granite co-founder Riza Aziz. From the $238 million Aziz is alleged to have received, lavish properties in New York, Beverly Hills and London were purchased, while at least $68 million went into his start-up production company and The Wolf of Wall Street. The three properties, and the film, are now listed as among the assets the Justice Department is looking to seize as part of a $1 billion forfeiture complaint.
For his part in the deal, al-Qubaisi is alleged to have received more than $472 million. And like his fellow beneficiary Aziz, he wasn’t shy about taking advantage of his new wealth, in 2014 purchasing a penthouse in the Walker Tower for $51 million, then the most expensive property in downtown Manhattan. The penthouse is now facing seizure by the Justice Department.
al-Qubaisi was also the chairman of the Hakkasan nightclub group, which he purchased via his personal Tasameem Real Estate investment fund in 2008 (and not via the similar-sounding Tamaseen subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority). Hakkasan would expand via a series of purchases and new openings to become one of the largest luxury restaurant and nightlife groups in the world, and the largest non-gambling entertainment enterprise in Las Vegas.
al-Qubaisi — who left his position at IPIC in April 2015 and is reported to be under investigation by Abu Dhabi authorities — stepped down as chairman of Hakkasan earlier this year. The company asserts that it never received “any investment from the 1 Malaysia Development Fund,” the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund at the center of the corruption scandal.
As for al-Husseiny, who is alleged to have received $66 million, any extravagant purchases are yet to be brought to light. However, he was put forward by Red Granite in 2014 as the company’s backer and financier of The Wolf of Wall Street.
“I have known Riza [Aziz] for many years and have done business with Red Granite Pictures since its inception,” he said in a statement at the time, a statement now alleged to have been false.
Just days following the DoJ filing on July 20, Swiss authorities seized the three pieces of artwork cited in the complaints, namely Van Gogh’s “La maison de Vincent a Arles,” Monet’s “Saint-Georges Majeur” and “Nympheas avec Reflets de Hautes Herbes.” The three had been bought for a combined total of almost $100 million.
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