Kuwait has been rocked tonight by an announcement from the Home Ministry that an arrest warrant has been issued for one of the kingdom’s most prominent and powerful royal sheikhs, Sabah Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah (Sheikh Sabah).
As the news service Al-Rai makes clear the sheikh is wanted for questioning in connection with 1MDB:
“Al-Rai learned that an arrest warrant was issued against Sabah Jaber Al-Mubarak in the case of the Malaysian sovereign fund.
Other publications have raced to pick up on the story too:
Sarawak Report first exposed Sheikh Sabah’s connections to Jho Low and his money laundering of 1MDB related kickbacks from Chinese companies granted projects in Malaysia in May.
We detailed how in early 2016, when the Malaysian financier was already on the run and barred by most international banks, Sheikh Sabah signed a letter to several of Jho Low’s creditors, including the top law US firm Kobre & Kim, offering to pay several millions dollars worth of outstanding bills, supposedly out of ‘friendship’.
Indeed, mandatory filings under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) show that the law firm together with several lobbying and PR agencies continued to receive payments from Sheikh Sabah for work on behalf of Jho Low until late last year. Sabah’s father was removed from his position as prime minister of Kuwait in November.
Further articles and exposes by Sarawak Report have provided evidence that following the forging of a business relationship with Jho Low in February 2016 bank accounts controlled by Sheikh Sabah in the Kuwaiti branch of the Chinese ICBC Bank received hundreds of millions of dollars in payments linked to Jho Low’s business dealings as he sought to evade the confiscation of his assets by US investigators, in particular the Park Lane Hotel in New York.
The money appears to have originated from kickbacks made by a series of Chinese state owned companies, including the construction giant CCCC, paid in return for inflated construction contracts handed to them by the Malaysian government under the control of then prime minister and finance minister Najib Razak, for whom Jho Low secretly acted as a key advisor.
Ultimately, the bulk of those kickbacks, which were passed to the Sheikh Sabah companies via known subsidiaries of CCCC based in Hong Kong, was used to pay off debts owed by the plundered Malaysian development fund 1MDB which was under the total control of Najib as its secret sole signatory and shareholder.
However, hundreds of millions of dollars remained under the control of Sheikh Sabah in Kuwait, according to documents viewed by Sarawak Report, which include an investigation by Kuwait’s own money laundering authority produced last year after enquiries were made by Malaysia’s PH government following the removal of Najib.
Malaysia was in particular seeking money that appeared to have been funnelled out of the East Coast Rail Line contract and two pipe line contracts in East Malaysia. Sarawak Report has analysed the money trails which indicate that on one occasion, for example, over a billion dollars was transferred by CCCC to a Sheikh Sabah controlled company on August 28th 2017 only to be channelled straight to his private account at ICBC bank, from which US$700 million was then channelled back to the Ministry of Finance in Kuala Lumpur on the pretext of buying 1MDB land, which in fact never changed hands. That money was then sent immediately to Abu Dhabi to repay outstanding 1MDB debts.
Earlier, in September 2016 another transaction of 450 million CNY (cUS$60 million) was made from another CCCC subsidiary, True Dragon Properties in Hong Kong. According to Sheikh Sabah’s former business partner Bachar Kiwan, this money was related to services performed by a company co-owned by him and Sheikh Sabah named Al Waseet International, which was used to assist Jho Low in transferring his ownership of the Park Lane Hotel to the Chinese owned Greenland Properties.
Sheikh Sabah allegedly agreed to use Al Waseet as an intermediary in the sale to enable Greenland to then purchase the property, despite Jho Low being the subject of global criminal investigations over the thefts of billions from 1MDB.
In a legal letter to the Kuwait authorities, Bachar Kiwan, who has now turned whistle-blower following what he describes as persecution by the sheikh and his family, details a number of corrupt contracts which he claims the sheikh and his family engaged in using Al Waseet, involving public projects allegedly controlled by the powerful family in Kuwait.
These include the recently completed Al Jabe al-Ahmad Al-Sabah Causeway bridge, which is one of the longest in the world and was built by the South Korean company Hyundai. Bachar Kiwan claims in his statement that 10% of the value of the contract was paid in kickbacks amounting to KWD73 million (cUS$260 million) to the Sheikh:
After several weeks of headlines in Kuwait following these exposes Sarawak Report understands that the authorities had requested that Sheikh Sabah attend a police interview for questioning. When the sheikh failed to make the appointment yesterday the arrest warrant was apparently issued.
The Sheikh has reportedly been denied the right to leave the country and his accounts are said to be frozen.