Malaysia's 1MDB fund says it may be victim of US$3.5 billion fraud

Malaysian state fund 1MDB said it may be the victim of a US$3.5 billion (S$4.7 billion) fraud.
Malaysian state fund 1MDB said it may be the victim of a US$3.5 billion (S$4.7 billion) fraud.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - 1Malaysia Development Bhd, the troubled Malaysian state fund that's the subject of global investigations, said it could be a victim of fraud if payments of US$3.5 billion (S$4.7 billion) intended for an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund never made it there.

Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co. this week denied ownership of a company that received the funds known as Aabar Investments PJS Limited or Aabar BVI. Swiss authorities said on Tuesday (April 12) they are investigating two former public officials from the United Arab Emirates, who handled Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds that guaranteed 1MDB bonds.

"Given the recent denial by IPIC and the announcement by the Office of the Attorney-General of Switzerland, indicating that 1MDB could be a victim of fraud, 1MDB is exploring all avenues open to us," the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Authorities from the US to Switzerland and Singapore are trying to determine if some of the billions of dollars that 1MDB raised were siphoned out inappropriately. 1MDB, whose advisory board is headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, amassed more than 50 billion ringgit (S$17.3 billion) of debt over six years, using some of it to buy energy assets, including joint ventures with companies in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

A report by a Malaysian parliamentary committee last week identified at least US$4.2 billion of questionable transactions by 1MDB including those that involved the Abu Dhabi companies. The bipartisan group said it couldn't verify a US$2.1 billion payment to Aabar Investments PJS Ltd., while another US$1.37 billion was sent to the company without the approval of 1MDB's board.

IPIC has a unit that goes by the name of Aabar Investments PJS, without the Ltd. contained in the company that 1MDB transferred money to. 1MDB said it negotiated "various legal agreements" with the previous heads of IPIC and Aabar and called it a "surprising claim" that neither of the Gulf companies knew of payments to Aabar BVI.

"1MDB is confident of its legal position in relation to the US$3.5 billion cash deposits paid to Aabar BVI," the Malaysian fund said in a separate statement on Tuesday.