Monday, April 15, 2024
HomeLegalUpdate: How Hakkasan's Chairman was Arrested

Update: How Hakkasan’s Chairman was Arrested

Vegas based nightclub and entertainment group Hakkasan was owned by the Emirati businessman Khadem al-Qubaisi who received hundreds millions in return for allowing his sovereign wealth fund IPIC and its subsidiary Aabar to act as a second ‘front’ for billion dollar thefts from 1MDB, again orchestrated by Jho Low.

Party boy Jho Low hasn’t been found and attempts to locate him are underway, the report said, citing Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun. Malaysia has sought Interpol’s help to locate and arrest him, and there is no change in status at that level, Fuzi was quoted as saying.

Hakkasan is likewise registered in the UK with the original shareholder cited as a private Abu Dhabi company called Tasameem Real Estate Company Limited, which US court filings revealed to be 90% owned in turn by KAQ and the remainder by a relative.

The former manager of the group Neil Moffitt, appointed in 2014, was also a UK citizen and over saw the rapid global expansion of the chain in the wake of the hundreds of millions that poured from 1MDB into KAQ’s private Luxembourg bank account in the name of VASCO Trust.

Moffitt also fronted the purchase of a number of properties in the US on behalf of KAQ (including Beverley Hills mansions and a major New York penthouse), which were later confiscated by the US authorities under money laundering regulations, having been determined to have been funded by those 1MDB bribes to KAQ.

However, Moffitt and the Hakkasan management angrily rejected concerns raised by Sarawak Report that any of the tainted 1MDB cash might also have found their way into the separate Tasameem accounts to fund Hakkasan’s subsequent extraordinary acquisition spree that had turned it into America’s largest hospitality concerns in a matter of months and projected Moffitt’s profile as a top media mogul.

In statements to the media Hakkasan said the group was ‘ring-fenced’ from 1MDB, despite registering an injection of $566 million in shareholder loans during the aftermath of Khadem’s receipt of bribes.

Instead, Tasameem referred to a $20 million loan provided by the IPIC Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund subsidiary Aabar as being a key source of of funding for the Hakkasan group at that time.  The group provided no comment on banking information obtained by Sarawak Report that showed at least one payment of $10 million had however been made from the tainted VASCO trust account to Tasameem Real Estate Limited, the owner of Hakkasan.

Nor did it comment on the name change of an off-shore entity owned by KAQ from VASCO Strategic Services to Tasameem Strategic Fund during the same period.

Nevertheless, those exposes over 1MDB were followed by a number of management and ownership shake-ups at Hakkasan as well.  KAQ stood down as Chairman of the group a year after being arrested and later held prisoner in Abu Dhabi over the thefts at 1MDB.

Moffitt also stepped down from the company, after staying on as manager and director for some months following KAQ’s departure. He and other former Aabar officials, who had simulataneously worked on KAQ’s private ventures (eg US citizens Chad Tappendorf and James Sullivan) were replaced as directors by a new team of individuals led by Emirati relatives of KAQ.  In late 2016 the Tasameem itself was replaced as shareholder by a new Abu Dhabi company.

KAQ’s original disgrace, it is worth remembering, came almost immediately after photographs showing his lewd nightclub habits were revealed on Sarawak Report, months before the full extent of his scandalous involvement in the 1MDB thefts was understood.

The apparent reason was that the Emirati royal family, operate an extreme disapproval of such activities and drinking, gambling and exposed flesh, all of which of course, are hallmarks of the Vegas-based Hakkasan:


Drinking, dancing and gambling - the Hakkasan brand

Drinking, dancing and gambling – the Hakkasan brand

All of which makes the latest developments in the management and ownership of the club, as evidenced in recent filings more noteworthy and surprising.

During the past months various plans for projected sales of the Hakkasan were floated, including a proposed merger with another major Vegas group SBE.  None of these in the end eventuated.

Instead, Hakkasan’s most recent filings produced at the end of last year provided a surprising piece of news in that a new owner has emerged in the form of none other than Aabar itself, the subsidiary of the sovereign wealth fund IPIC of which KAQ had been chairman, a position he had allegedly abused to assist in siphoning off billions from 1MDB.

Hakkasan's new owner is none other than Aabar

Hakkasan’s new owner is none other than Aabar

As Sarawak Report has revealed in previous reports, Aabar also functioned as a handy co-investor in a number of enterprises together with KAQ’s private companies, in what appeared to be a blatant conflict of interest, given his role as chairman and also CEO of its parent concern the wealth fund IPIC.

IPIC is now suing 1MDB (and indeed Goldman Sachs) for involving the fund in the 1MDB scandal by participating in the bribery of KAQ.

How this major sovereign wealth fund, which has now been absorbed by Abu Dhabi’s flagship fund Mubadala equates its new ownership of a brash Vegas-based casino and nightclub chain with those strict principles of propriety would be intriguing to discover.

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