Three Abraaj executives charged in U.S. fraud investigation

Former CFO, two ex-managing directors face new U.S. charges, Abraaj collapse was biggest private-equity insolvency

Three additional former executives of The Abraaj Group were charged in New York in a fraud investigation into the firm’s collapse last year that was the world’s biggest private-equity insolvency.

Former Chief Financial Officer Ashish Dave, former Managing Director Rafique Lakhani and former Managing Director Waqar Siddique were charged with multiple counts including fraud and conspiracy, in an indictment unsealed Thursday.

James Margolin, a spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, declined to say whether any of the men are in custody.

Abraaj, which was founded in 2002, was the Middle East’s biggest private equity fund and one of the world’s most influential emerging-market investors, with stakes in health care, clean energy, lending and real estate across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Turkey. Arif Naqvi, the founder and ex-chief executive officer, gave up control of the firm last year after it was disclosed that revenue hadn’t covered operating costs for years.

Abraaj, which managed almost $14 billion, was forced into liquidation in June after a group of investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commissioned an audit to investigate the alleged mismanagement of money in its health-care fund.

Naqvi and Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, a former managing partner, were charged in April. Sivendran Vettivetpillai, a former managing director, was also charged in April, five days after his ex-colleagues.

Naqvi, who is confined to his London home on $20 million bail, is awaiting extradition to the U.S. He said he is innocent.

Abdel-Wadood, who was arrested in New York while on a college-shopping trip with his wife and son, is the only one of the defendants who has appeared in U.S. court to face the charges. He pleaded not guilty and is confined to his home in New York and subject to a $10 million bond.

The case is U.S. v. Naqvi, 19-cr-00233, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Courtesy: Bloomberg

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