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Khadem Al Qubaisi is an Emirati businessman who, while in charge of two Abu Dhabi state companies, enriched himself and his associates by diverting billions of dollar of public funds using a fleet of businesses and shell companies across the world.
In August 2016, he was arrested in Abu Dhabi in for his role in what has become known as the 1MDB scandal, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The scandal involved 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), an investment fund set up in 2009 by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak to stimulate his country’s economy.
Recent investigations in multiple jurisdictions have shown that billions from the fund actually went to Malaysian officials, international bankers, politicians, and businessmen. Among them was Al Qubaisi, who is Razak’s stepson.
Before the scandal, Al Qubaisi’s career had been rapidly advancing. In 2007, he became the managing director of Abu Dhabi’s state-run International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).
Under his leadership, Reuters reported, IPIC bought a majority share in Aabar Investments PJSC, a local holding company known for real estate investments in Abu Dhabi.
While in charge of IPIC, Al Qubaisi helped salvage Malaysia’s 1MDB, which had been left in a precarious state by the scandal. Al Qubaisi offered $1 billion dollars in cash to assist the firm and took over $3.5 billion of its debt in exchange for assets, Reuters reported.
1MDB was supposed to make repayments to IPIC subsidiary Aabar. But the money never reached its destination; the Malaysian fund instead transferred it to various companies tied to Al Qubaisi and his associates, wrote the Muscat Daily.
Approximately $1.367 billion was transferred to an 1MDB subsidiary, the account of which was held at Falcon Bank, itself a subsidiary of Aabar. The money was then transferred to the Swiss bank account of a company called Aabar Investments PJS Limited. Despite its similar name, this company had no connection with Aabar Investments PJSC.
Setting up entities with names very similar to the intended recipients of government funds is a tactic Al Qubaisi appears to have used on several occasions. This was not the first time Al Qubaisi benefited from financial schemes that use similar names for different companies.
As soon as Aabar investments PJS received the money, the firm started transferring it to various accounts. These accounts were then used to purchase luxury real estate in the U.S. and U.K., fund high-end gambling trips, and make payments to associates of Al Qubaisi such as Riza Aziz.
One of Aziz’s companies, Red Granite Capital, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), received $238 million. Aziz used this money to fund his movie production company Red Granite Pictures, which produced Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and other Hollywood blockbusters.
All told, the purchases Al Qubaisi made using public funds over the course of his career include a penthouse condominium in downtown New York worth over $50 million, a mansion in Beverly Hills worth over $30 million, and another property in Los Angeles’ most ritzy neighborhood worth $15 million.
He also owns six properties in France, including Paris, St. Tropez and the Cote D’Azur, where he owns three luxury villas, according to Sarawak Report.
Al Qubaisi is the subject of asset forfeiture proceedings in the US, where authorities intend to seize $1 billion in assets gained through this elaborate money laundering network. Similar proceedings against him are ongoing in the UK, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Company documents indicate that Al Qubaisi is the founder and owner of Tasameem Real Estate Company LLC and Tasameem Investment SA. These entities invested in the building of a superyacht called the “Topaz,” which was bought with 1MDB funds and on which Leonardo DiCaprio, actor of the Wolf of Wall Street, has been seen partying and watching the soccer World Cup.
Khadem Al Qubaisi appears in a leaked database of property and residency data compiled by assorted real estate professionals, obtained by the non-profit group C4ADS and provided to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). He and a company he possibly owns are shown in connection with 16 properties on Dubai’s luxury waterfronts worth over $130 million.
One Dubai villa linked to Al-Qubaisi is located on Palm Jumeirah, the world’s largest artificial island, which has has malls, luxury hotels and high-end resorts. Another mansion lies in the gated community of Emirates Hills, named after Beverly Hills, where Al Qubaisi also owns a house.
Al Qubaisi’s company Tasameem is registered in Dubai and owns 14 luxury properties spread over the waterfront, marina, and residential areas. These include villas with swimming pools and lavish apartments in prominent high-rise buildings of the city’s skyline.
This story is part of the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium, a collaboration started by OCCRP and Transparency International. For more information, click here.