The astonishing recent developments in Kuwait, surrounding the conviction and imprisonment of the royal son of the Gulf state’s former prime minister (see above with Jho Low), have barely been reported in Malaysia.
Yet, it was the Malaysia related scandal ‘1MDB Plus’ that brought down the government of Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah last year (resulting in the belated investigation into his son, Sheikh Sabah Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah (Sheikh Sabah). And that episode was directly linked to the original multi-billion dollar kleptocracy heists carried out by Malaysia’s own ex-PM Najib Razak, now imprisoned over 1MDB.
It was Sarawak Report that broke the news in June 2020 that vast further sums of money – circa $2 billion – designed to assist Najib and his fugitive proxy Jho Tarek Low in covering up their earlier $5 billion thefts from 1MDB, had been funnelled out of Malaysia via accounts held by Sheikh Sabah Jr in Kuwait 2016/2017.
Sarawak Report has dubbed this further stage in the scandal ‘1MDB Plus’, following on from the original heist that had come to light in 2015. We had revealed the plan to steal RM30 billion (USD7.5 billion) from the inflated East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project in collusion with the Chinese state company CCCC back in July 2016 – only now was it clear where at least part of that planned theft had gone.
The revelations of corrupt practice involving the first family in the Gulf state has caused shock and outrage in Kuwait.
However, it is the Malaysian public who, once more, are the victims of this mega-crime and serious questions remain as to whether either country is doing enough to ensure proper reparations.
Tomorrow, Sunday June 4th, the appeal stage will open for the three defendants out of five who have been detained and imprisoned in Kuwait following their convictions last month for their role in the “organised criminal group” behind this money-laundering in the Gulf.
These are Sh. Sabah Jr himself and his collaborator Hamad Al Wazan (a college friend of Jho Low’s and the key intermediary with the Malaysians) who were both sentenced to ten years in jail, plus Sh. Sabah’s lawyer, who received a seven year sentence.
Also sentenced to ten years in absentia are Jho Low himself and Sh. Sabah’s former business parter, who then turned whistleblower, Bachar Kiwan.
The sentencing of Bachar Kiwan also raises questions about the Kuwaiti management of this case, which so far has seen not one ringgit in reparations for Malaysia. This despite indications that up to two billion dollars passed under the noses of its anti-money laundering regulators, of which at least $150 million is acknowledged to remain frozen in Kuwait.
The actual amount of remaining cash looks certain to be a great deal higher.
Without Bachar Kiwan the matter would not have come to light. The businessman was arrested and imprisoned in Kuwait in 2017, after he had pulled away from the original audacious plan to use his own publishing company, Al Waseet, as the front to launder the $3 billion dollars that Najib and Jho Low had proposed to transfer out of inflated public contracts in Malaysia (the ECRL rail link and Sabah pipeline deals) through Chinese companies and China’s ICBC bank into Kuwait.
His sentencing once more by the Kuwaiti courts is therefore controversial. Bachar argues he was targeted by the previous government to protect the son of the previous prime minister, given he had exited the conspiracy and knew too much. He was tortured and interrogated before being sentenced to 41 years in jail on numerous charges he claims had been trumped up.
After escaping to Europe, he was again detained for almost a year combatting a Red Notice Alert issued with INTERPOL by the KuwaitI government. Eventually, a Spanish court concluded the extradition order was politically motivated and quashed the notice.
It was at that point in 2020 that Bachar Kiwan reached out to Sarawak Report which released his evidence for the first time – revealing the further stolen billions of Malaysia’s public money poured into the 1MDB + Kuwait money-laundering scheme.
It was thanks only to this whistleblowing evidence (from a man who in the event gained nothing from the scheme) that investigations eventually got underway into the activities of this well-connected gang in Kuwait – having previously been ignored, denied and suppressed.
Just last week the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention therefore ruled in Bachar Kiwan’s favour, describing him as a victim of politically motivated prosecutions in Kuwait where prosecutors and the courts have continued to treat him as a co-conspirator rather than a whistleblower:
In 2016, the Kuwaiti royal family used the state apparel to dismiss Mr. Kiwan from the Al Waseet International group, expropriate him, and violate his fundamental rights in order to use the group for large-scale financial embezzlements.
On 18 September 2016, the former prime minister of Kuwait reportedly made a firm offer to Mr. Kiwan to buy his shares for a price set unilaterally. As a result of Mr. Kiwan’s refusal, the royal family used the State’s executive and judicial branches to intimidate Mr. Kiwan….
- The deprivation of liberty of Bachar Kiwan being in contravention of articles 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2, 9, 14, and 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, was arbitrary and falls under categories I and III.The Working Group requests the Government of Kuwait to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Kiwan without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to accord Mr. Kiwan an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.The Working Group urges the Government to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Kiwan and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.
Read the full ruling of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention here :
Kuwait’s questionable handling of Bachar Kiwan has plainly limited the evidence available to investigators in the case. Without Mr Kiwan Sarawak Report would not have exposed the Kuwaiti money laundering ring, against which no action was being taken by the authorities in Kuwait or global regulators.
Sarawak Report has now sighted further evidence that indicates a great deal more money was siphoned into the state than the $1.02 billion acknowledged in last months court proceedings.
That money remains unaccounted for and apparently remains concealed. It belongs to Malaysia. What will the Malaysians do next about this glaring matter?
Meanwhile, information now suggests that once again it is the global reach of the FBI that may open up this case. Sarawak Report has learnt that US investigators have been granted permission by Kuwait to question Sh Sabah whilst in custody awaiting the outcome of the joint appeal.
Among the matters the FBI are likely seeking to ascertain is whether remaining hundreds of millions accessible through Kuwait might have furnished the wherewithal for the bargain the fugitive Jho Low had attempted to strike last year with Malaysia’s backdoor Coup Coalition?
The proposed deal, put forward by Jho Low’s top team of US lawyers from Kobre & Kim (who clearly have no problem over payment with dirty money and indeed were financed through Sh Sabah from Malaysia’s stolen cash for several months in advance of his arrest) had been negotiated in Malaysia through Najib’s disgraced ex-AG, Apandi Ali.
The suggested arrangement, as presented by these lawyers in Kuala Lumpur, was that Jho Low would receive immunity from the then Malaysian government in return for $1.5 billion that the 1MDB fugitive plainly has access to (and more) …. somewhere.
The FBI may well take the opportunity to ask the Sheikh about his other business dealings involving dollar accounts in his Chinese bank. This is all money belonging to Malaysia.
It is also over two years since this website presented both to the Kuwaiti and UK authorities the fruits of its own research into the destination of cash paid by Sh. Sabah to Jho Low’s college friend and key contact in Kuwait, Hamad Al Wazzan.
In 2021 Al Wazzan had sought to sue Sarawak Report for alleged defamation through the London branch of the law firm Taylor Wessing over matters now upheld in the Kuwaiti court.
We had warned the law firm that the origin of the cash being used to pay them was stolen money, which Taylor Wessing’s ‘Ultra High Net Worth Individual/Reputation Management’ division chose to ignore but which has now been proven by the court.
Sarawak Report had identified several million dollars invested by Hamad Al Wazzan in UK/US based enterprises and so-called start ups shortly after he acquired millions in fraudulent fees from Sh Sabah for alleged ‘investment research’.
“I have reason to believe that money invested by the Kuwaiti national Hamad Al Wazzan in the UK through an instrument known as the Summit Action Fund is the product of money laundering. This includes $6 million lodged in a start up company registered in the UK named Ometria Ltd. Al Wazzan was forced to step down from the board of the company after being arrested in Kuwait last year. He presently remains on bail in Kuwait where the authorities are investigating his role in laundering money stolen by the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low.
Over the past year I have established that Jho Low funnelled over a billion dollars stolen from Malaysia at the behest of the then prime minister, Najib Razak, through Kuwait using the collaboration of Sh Sabah, the son of the then prime minister of Kuwait, who acted as a front for the money setting up a number of companies and bank accounts in Kuwait and offshore through which the funds were transmitted.
My most recent evidence is that some of the millions backhanded by Jho Low to Sh Sabah during the period of laundering in 2016/17 was then paid on by Sh Sabah to Jho Low’s long-standing friend in Kuwait, an old college classmate from the Wharton business school named Hamad Al Wazzan (HAW). This was in return for HAW’s services as an introducer and link man to Jho Low and other alleged investment advice he says he provided to Sh Sabah (which appears not to have been acted upon). That money amounts to several million dollars on HAW’s own admissions to me.
HAW also acknowledges that it was he who introduced Jho Low to the Sheikh’s business contacts in early 2016 when the then fugitive financier was desperately looking for new fronts and intermediaries to enable him to continue to funnel cash and pay bills. He insists he was a minor actor and barely aware of the theft and laundering activities by Jho Low but it seems clear he understood the situation exactly and was keen to get as much money as he could for himself…
……. The evidence (partly obtained through leaks from investigations by the Kuwaiti authorities) shows that a considerable chunk of the laundered money remained with the Sheikh who then proceeded to employ HAW as his investment manager and to pay him reported millions in return for what HAW says was genuine advice. HAW has admitted he received huge sums of money for this advice although he seeks to imply that he had already built himself up as a successful businessman by that time, particularly thanks to having set up an Uber-style transportation app in Kuwait, under the brand of Dreawil Technologies which is a UK registered company.
In fact, my evidence from sources combined with documentation indicate that HAW did not have money to invest before he brokered Jho Low’s business relationship with Sh Sabah and the money started flowing into Sh Sabah’s accounts from June 2016 from Jho Low. Notably, Dreawil was not registered in the UK before 2017 and his first employee in Kuwait says he was hired in 2017.
Documents further show that HAW was seeking to get his agreed 5% commission up front on the proposed Comoros Bank deal from Sh Sabah and Kiwan in May 2016 in order to fulfil an ambition to buy a share in the Summit Action Fund at that time (a prestige startup investor run by rich boys in the USA with whom he wanted to associate). This leads me to concur with the claims of former business partners that HAW had no substantive funds before he received payments from Sh Sabah /Kiwan following his introduction to Jho Low.
Likewise, Sh Sabah was in no position to pay HAW millions of dollars until he started to receive hundreds of millions from Jho Low thanks to that introduction – money which flowed into Sh Sabah’s accounts in 2016 – 2017.
It is therefore logical that the money subsequently invested from 2016/2017 by HAW in the Summit Action Fund and from there into startup investments in the UK, such as the $6 million he is publicly promoted as having brought to the UK company Ometria (see press release) was the product of the laundering of stolen Malaysian money by Jho Low, linked to the 1MDB series of thefts.
Please note how HAW invested in the Summit Action Fund in 2016 although he is described as a founder from 2015 in certain online publications……
…..Having joined Summit Action Fund (minimum investment $1m) HAW in 2017 is reported to have invested $6 million in Ometria and joined the board. According to his associates he did not have this level of investment money prior to 2016 and in fact was seeking to upfront his commission for introducing Jho Low to the Comoros Bank sale in order to invest in the Summit Action Fund in May 2016 [SR’s letter to the UK’s NCA]
The court has now confirmed that these sums were kickbacks for his role in the money laundering conspiracy, authorised by Jho Low.
Yet, despite the extensive information, discreetly provided by Sarawak Report to both the UK National Crime Agency and the Kuwaiti Anti-Money Laundering Authority, no mention of these investments were made during the trial of Hamad Al Wazan.
This is Malaysian money that ought to be retrieved. How much more Malaysian money continues to be ignored by the Kuwaiti authorities?