ONE57 tower linked to global money-laundering probe
New York’s first billionaires’ building, One57, was funded by a subsidiary of an Abu Dhabi company linked to a global money-laundering investigation, The Post has learned.
Gary Barnett, of Extell Development, started to build the 75-story skyscraper, at 157 W. 57th St., during the height of the recession when Western funding was scarce.
Barnett owns only a small piece of the $1.6 billion tower, which was mainly funded by Aabar Investments and a second, privately held Abu Dhabi-based investor, Tasameem Real Estate Co., sources said.Aabar is a subsidiary of International Petroleum Investment Co., or IPIC, one of the biggest backers of a state-owned Malaysian investment fund that is at the center of a growing corruption scandal. That fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, had $6.5 billion in bonds guaranteed by IPIC, according to reports.
1MDB made two payments to IPIC — a $1.4 billion cash deposit in 2012 and a nearly $1 billion payment to extinguish options given to IPIC for guaranteeing bonds, according to a report.
IPIC, however, denied to 1MDB that either IPIC or Aabar ever received this money, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
1MDB is under investigation around the globe after more than $1 billion from its coffers allegedly wound up in personal bank accounts belonging to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib denies any improprieties.
A US Department of Justice probe into 1MDB is looking at assets owned by Najib and his family, including luxury real estate in New York and Los Angeles.
The probe could also spill over into real estate financing deals, such as One57, that were funded by entities with ties to the 1MDB scandal, sources told The Post.
At the time of the One57 deal, Khadem al-Qubaisi was chief executive of IPIC and chairman of Aabar. His associate Mohamed Badawy al-Husseiny was Aabar’s chief executive.
In the wake of the 1MBD probe, al-Qubaisi and al-Husseiny have been stripped of their positions at the state-owned entities.
Al-Qubaisi was also interrogated in Abu Dhabi and was temporarily under house arrest. He is now in exile and under “extensive investigations by the state, regarding the billions of dollars that have been lost from Aabar over the past few years,” the Sarawak Report, an investigative blog, reported.
The broad-based scam has sparked calls as recently as Tuesday for the prime minister to resign.
In September 2010, Aabar 57 Funding LLC gave Extell a $140.675 million mortgage, according to city property records. The name on the documents is al-Husseiny.
Aabar and Tasameem turned up in a 2010 court case in Tampa, Fla., when two businessmen alleged that IPIC, Aabar and Tasameem hired their company, Capital Trans International, to find US real estate deals — but never paid them for the work.
An Extell spokesman did not return calls.
Separately, Goldman Sachs’ former Southeast Asia Chairman Tim Leissner has been subpoenaed by the FBI.
Leissner helped 1MDB raise money and left Malaysia in the wake of the scandal. Heresigned in February.