KL-Abu Dhabi talks over missing 1MDB funds 'break down'

ABU DHABI • Negotiations between government investment funds in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi over billions of dollars in missing funds have broken down, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has reported, quoting people familiar with the matter.

The breakdown in talks will make it harder for the two funds to put the scandal behind them, the business newspaper said last Friday.

"Given the fact that the issue was escalated by Malaysia from a commercial process to a government- to-government interaction that has now floundered, there is a strong possibility that the negative consequences of the issue will live at a government-to-government level," an Abu Dhabi official told the WSJ.

The matter revolves around nearly US$6.5 billion (S$9.2 billion) that Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and its unit Aabar Investments PJS want to recover from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Malaysia said it has paid out a big chunk of the debts but IPIC said it hasn't received them.

Malaysia's parliamentary Public Accounts Committee concluded last April after its probe that some US$3.5 billion had disappeared into a company based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) that has since been closed, called Aabar Investments PJS Ltd. IPIC and Aabar Investments PJS have said they do not own the BVI company.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) in civil suits last July said some US$3.5 billion was siphoned from 1MDB to buy assets including homes in New York and London, expensive art work, a luxury jet and to fund the movie Wolf Of Wall Street by Mr Low Taek Jho, a former adviser of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, as well as the political leader's stepson Riza Aziz.

The third person named by the DOJ was Khadem Al Qubaisi, a United Arab Emirates national who was managing director of IPIC and chairman of Aabar Investments PJS.

Mr Al Qubaisi and another executive who helped set up the BVI-based company were arrested in Abu Dhabi last year, the WSJ said, but have not been charged with a crime.

On the breakdown in talks, a senior Abu Dhabi government official told the WSJ that the emirate had negotiated in good faith after a request from Malaysia to resolve the dispute by the end of last year, but "that good faith dissipated when the new year began and there had been no material progress on any repayment".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 22, 2017, with the headline 'KL-Abu Dhabi talks over missing 1MDB funds 'break down''. Print Edition | Subscribe