Emiratis, Malaysians reach $1.2B deal over troubled fund

AP News
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Posted: Apr 24, 2017 6:56 AM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Emirati and Malaysian officials said Monday they reached a deal to resolve a legal dispute over the indebted and troubled Malaysian investment fund 1MDB, with the United Arab Emirates set to receive $1.2 billion over this year.

The deal, which still would need to be approved by an arbitration panel in London, resolves merely one part of the sprawling, worldwide investigation into 1MDB.

Money from the fund, which was to develop Malaysia's economy, instead found itself funneled through a global embezzlement and money-laundering scheme involving people close to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, luxury properties and the production of the 2013 film "The Wolf of Wall Street," U.S. investigators allege.

In 2016, the Abu Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Co. alleged 1MDB defaulted on more than $1.1 billion in debt it owed to the sovereign wealth fund and its subsidiary, Aabar Investments. It filed a case against the fund in the London Court of International Arbitration.

A filing Monday on the London Stock Exchange said Malaysian officials agreed to pay the wealth fund $1.2 billion this year, with half being due by July 31 and the other half by Dec. 31. The filing said Malaysian officials also have agreed "to assume responsibility for all future interest and principal payments" on two $1.75 billion bonds.

The agreement is contingent on the arbitration panel making a consent award on May 31, the filing said.

1MDB released a short statement Monday saying it was "pleased" by the agreement, saying it "represents the resolution of a significant challenge." Officials with the International Petroleum Investment Co., known as IPIC, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The resolution comes as 1MDB remains the target of investigators in Singapore, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the U.S. American investigators allege officials at the fund diverted more than $3.5 billion through a web of shell companies and bank accounts.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak started the fund shortly after taking office in 2009 to promote economic development projects, but the fund accumulated billions in debt. Najib has denied any wrongdoing, but the scandal sparked a mass rally in November against his government.

In the UAE, the former head of IPIC, Khadem al-Qubaisi, is named in a series of court documents filed by U.S. federal prosecutors as receiving money from the 1MDB scam and buying luxury properties. He resigned from IPIC in April 2015 and his current whereabouts are unknown.

In June, Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ordered that IPIC merge with the Mubadala Development Co., another of the emirate's sovereign wealth fund, amid a cash crunch brought on low global oil prices. The combined fund will hold roughly $135 billion in assets across businesses ranging from computer chips to renewable energy for Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the UAE.

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Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap . His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz .