Another million-dollar scam, involving an Emirati, has resurfaced, and this time the involved party is not a common citizen or an expatriate. The multi-billion fraud scandal we are talking about involves the UAE’s ambassador to Washington,Yousef Al-Otaiba.
The scandal came into the fore when a group of hackers claimed to hack the email account of the UAE’s ambassador to Washington. Even though full data hasn’t been released yet, the hackers state that this data shows how the UAE’s backdoor lobbying is hurting the US interests overseas.
Apart from other startling revelations, the leaked emails also implicate the UAE’s envoy to the fund embezzlement of 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MBD). Companies linked to Otaiba allegedly received 60 million US dollars which were originally embezzled from 1MDB fund. It is interesting to note that a transnational inquiry and investigation by five countries, including the US, is going on into this mega corruption scandal that involves billions of dollars from the Malaysian state investment fund.
Who is Yousef Al-Otaiba?
Yousuf Al- Otaiba belongs to a rich Emirati merchant family. His father was the first petroleum minister of the UAE. Otaiba studied International Relations from Georgetown University, Washington DC. He is the UAE’s envoy to the US for more than 9 years and hence a well-known person in the US national security circles. He even participated in Pentagon’s strategy meetings at the invitation of defense officials during Obama’s tenure.
Background of Malaysian corruption scandal
The 1MDB fund was set up in 2009 by the then Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, in an attempt to transform the country, especially capital Kuala Lumpur into a financial hub through strategic investments. Six years later, Malaysia was rocked with multibillion embezzlement and money-laundering involving 1MDB funds.
Corrupt Prime Minister of Malaysia was saved by Saudi petro dollars
Malaysia’s attorney general established a clear money trail of $681 million in PM’s account with entities and organizations linked with 1MDB fund. However, the court cleared the PM on a very unconvincing claim that the money is his account was a ‘gift ‘from Saudi royal family. Impartial analysts dismissed the court ruling which exonerated Najib from embezzlement charges.
Hacked emails indicate the involvement of UAE’s ambassador in 1MDB fraud
The 1MDB scandal resurfaced in the news when the UAE’s top official was involved. According to Wall Street Journal, the hacked email provides the description of a meeting between an Abu Dhabi-based businessman, Shaher Awartani, with a Malaysian investor, Jho Low, who is supposed to be the central character of 1MDB’s $4.5 billion fraud case. Awartani is also a business partner of Otaiba.
The involvement of Otaiba in the 1MDB is then further highlighted by the details of Singapore criminal case against a Swiss banker who disclosed that $50 million of disbursements were made to Densmore Investments Ltd which is an offshore shell company based in British Virgin Island and a construction and boring company based in the UAE. Both of these companies are owned and connected to Otaiba.
Another document from Singapore fraud case revealed that loans worth of $16 million were also given to the Otaiba’s offshore company from a business linked to the alleged Malaysian fraud.
Malaysian investor and partner of Otaiba and Awartani advised them to close their accounts in BSI Bank, a private Swiss bank, which played a significant role in the 1MDB fraud, according to the investigators from the US, Singapore and Switzerland.
Indifference of the ambassador and the government
Otaiba has refused to comment on the situation. He has also refused to provide his version following the WSJ report. Spokesperson for the UAE Embassy in the US strongly refuted all these reports. She said, “there were numerous orchestrated dossiers that have been prepared … targeting the ambassador, which are purported to contain hacked emails."
Spokesperson for the UAE’s embassy in the US also linked the leaked emails to the recent crisis in the Gulf where Saudi-led bloc, including the UAE, has cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Royals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE consider a progressive media landscape of Qatar a threat to their plans and kingdoms.
Amidst all the noise and investigations surrounding the UAE’ ambassador alleged involvement in Malaysian scam, the government of the UAE doesn’t look bothered at all. It has not brought the ambassador for internal investigations, and with every passing day, it is becoming more likely that this money embezzlement scandal will be buried like all other scams and frauds.