1MDB-Abu Dhabi deal irons out funds' tangled transactions

The agreement on the fund units was concluded sometime last week. PHOTO: REUTERS

More details have emerged of the deal struck between Kuala Lumpur and Abu Dhabi to avoid a messy arbitration that could have revealed serious mismanagement at their respective state-owned investment corporations, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC).

According to senior financial and legal executives, the main hurdle was fund units amounting to US$2.43 billion (S$3.4 billion) held by two 1MDB subsidiaries, Brazen Sky and 1MDB Global Investments, that were guaranteed by IPIC subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS. Aabar had disputed the guarantee.

To overcome the hurdle, 1MDB agreed to waive its right to claim from Aabar the US$2.43 billion guarantee. In return, Abu Dhabi arranged for an undisclosed entity domiciled in the Seychelles to buy the units from 1MDB at the guaranteed value, to be settled by deferred payments from this month to October 2022, said a senior financial executive familiar with the matter.

The agreement on the fund units, concluded sometime last week, paved the way for the main settlement, said the executives.

As reported by The Straits Times last week, settlement calls for Malaysia to repay Abu Dhabi the US$1.2 billion it owes under a financial assistance package. Payment will be made in two equal instalments before the year end.

Malaysia will also honour its obligations under 1MDB's US$3.5 billion bond issue guaranteed by IPIC.

Under the settlement, Malaysia and IPIC will enter into negotiations to resolve roughly US$3.5 billion in cash advances and payments 1MDB made to several Abu Dhabi entities. Should IPIC fail to make full settlement before the deadline of end-December 2020, the Malaysian government can pursue legal claims against IPIC.

These payments were due from 1MDB to IPIC and Aabar under a 1MDB bond issue. However, both IPIC and Aabar said in April last year that they had not received the funds as the money had been wrongly channelled to a different firm. It was sent to a shell company in the British Virgin Island set up to appear like an IPIC unit by two key Abu Dhabi state representatives, including Khadem Al Qubaishi, who was then IPIC chairman.

1MDB never denied the destination of the payments, but has insisted that instructions for the payments were based on agreements executed by senior IPIC and Aabar executives, including Qubaishi.

The United States Department of Justice filed civil suits in July last year alleging money laundering offences involving funds at 1MDB and entities tied to Qubaishi. He was arrested in Abu Dhabi but has yet to be charged with a crime.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2017, with the headline 1MDB-Abu Dhabi deal irons out funds' tangled transactions. Subscribe