Top Abraaj executives arrested on US fraud charges

Arif Naqvi, Founder and Group Chief Executive of Abraaj Group has been arrested in London. (File photo/Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2019
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Top Abraaj executives arrested on US fraud charges

NEW YORK/LONDON: The chief executive and a managing partner of the collapsed Dubai private equity firm Abraaj Capital Ltd. have been arrested on US charges that they defrauded their investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Abraaj founder and Chief Executive Arif Naqvi was arrested in the United Kingdom last Friday, while managing partner Mustafa Abdel-Wadood was arrested at a New York hotel on Thursday, Assistant US Attorney Andrea Griswold said at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.
Griswold said prosecutors would seek to have Naqvi, who is charged with the same crimes, extradited. Casey Larsen, a spokesman for Naqvi, could not immediately be reached.
A statement from Naqvi’s external PR firm said Naqvi maintained his innocence in relation to the charges.
“Mr Naqvi maintains his innocence, and he fully expects to be cleared of any charges. For almost a year since the commencement of the provisional liquidations, he has been working tirelessly to maximize returns for Abraaj’s creditors,” the statement said.
Abdel-Wadood appeared at the Manhattan hearing and pleaded not guilty to securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy charges. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, did not immediately request bail, saying he needed more time to become familiar with the case.
Abraaj had been the largest buyout fund in the Middle East and North Africa until it collapsed in the middle of 2018 after the Gates Foundation and other investors raised concerns about the management of its $1 billion health care fund.
In brief indictments unsealed on Thursday, US federal prosecutors claimed that from about 2014 until Abraaj’s collapse, Naqvi and Abdel-Wadood lied about the performance of Abraaj’s funds, inflating their value by more than half a billion dollars.
The US prosecutors also said that Naqvi and Abdel-Wadood caused “at least hundreds of millions” of investor funds to be misappropriated, either to disguise liquidity shortfalls or for their personal benefit or that of their associates.
Griswold said that Abraaj had represented itself as a pioneer of “impact investing” that promoted social progress, for example by investing in hospitals in developing countries.
“In truth, Abraaj was engaged in a massive fraud,” she said.
The indictments were short on detail, Griswold said, because authorities moved quickly to arrest Abdel-Wadood upon learning he was in the United States with his wife and son to visit colleges.
She said prosecutors intended to file more detailed charges by the end of May.
After the hearing, Abdel-Wadood spoke briefly to his wife, who had watched from the courtroom gallery, before US marshals led him away in handcuffs.
Naqvi appeared in a court in London on Thursday and was remanded in custody to appear again on April 18 at Westminster Magistrates Court for the extradition case via video link, a court official told Reuters on Friday.
Abraaj and Naqvi face related civil charges filed on Thursday by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Naqvi denies these charges. Liquidators of Abraaj could not be immediately reached for a comment.
The SEC alleges that Naqvi and his firm raised money for the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund, collecting more than $100 million over three years from US-based charitable organizations and other US investors.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Naqvi misappropriated money from the health fund and commingled the assets with corporate funds of Abraaj Investment Management Ltd. and its parent company, and used it for purposes unrelated to the health fund.


Amazon workers strike as ‘Prime’ shopping frenzy hits

Updated 16 July 2019
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Amazon workers strike as ‘Prime’ shopping frenzy hits

  • The protesters waves signs with messages along the lines of “We’re human, not robots”
  • The strike was part of an ongoing effort to pressure the company on issues including job safety, equal opportunity in the workplace, and concrete action on issues including climate change

SAN FRANCISCO: Amazon workers walked out of a main distribution center in Minnesota on Monday, protesting for improved working conditions during the e-commerce titan’s major “Prime” shopping event.
Amazon workers picketed outside the facility, briefly delaying a few trucks and waving signs with messages along the lines of “We’re human, not robots.”
“We know Prime Day is a big day for Amazon, so we hope this strike will help executives understand how serious we are about wanting real change that will uplift the workers in Amazon’s warehouses,” striker Safiyo Mohamed said in a release.
“We create a lot of wealth for Amazon, but they aren’t treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve.”
Organizers did not disclose the number of strikers, who said employees picketed for about an hour in intense heat before cutting the protest short due to the onset of heavy rain.
The strike was part of an ongoing effort to pressure the company on issues including job safety, equal opportunity in the workplace, and concrete action on issues including climate change, according to community organization Awood Center.
US Democratic presidential contenders Kamila Harris and Bernie Sanders were among those who expressed support for the strikers on Twitter.
“I stand in solidarity with the courageous Amazon workers engaging in a work stoppage against unconscionable working conditions in their warehouses,” Sanders said in a tweet.
“It is not too much to ask that a company owned by the wealthiest person in the world treat its workers with dignity and respect.”
Amazon employees also went on strike at seven locations in Germany, demanding better wages as the US online retail giant launched its two-day global shopping discount extravaganza called Prime Day.
Amazon had said in advance that the strike would not affect deliveries to customers.
Amazon has consistently defended work conditions, contending it is a leader when it comes to paying workers at least $15 hourly and providing benefits.
The company last week announced plans to offer job training to around one-third of its US workforce to help them gain skills to adapt to new technologies.
Amazon has been hustling to offer one-day deliver on a wider array of products as a perk for paying $119 annually to be a member of its “Prime” service, which includes streaming films and television shows.
The work action came on the opening day of a major “Prime” shopping event started in 2015.
Now in 17 countries, the event will span Monday and Tuesday, highlighted by a pre-recorded Taylor Swift video concert and promotions across a range of products and services from the e-commerce leader.
Prime Day sales for Amazon are expected to hit $5 billion this year, up from $3.2 billion in 2018, which at the time represented its biggest ever global shopping event, JP Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth says in a research note.