In September 2017, Arif Naqvi was speaking in New York, trying to raise billions for a new fund.
As the head of private equity firm The Abraaj Group, Naqvi was a pioneer in the field of impact investing, which sought to make money for investors while doing good for the world. He spent the week rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s richest and most powerful people, including Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and then-Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
But as he sought to impress the world’s movers and shakers, one of his employees was about to bring it all down, write Simon Clark and Will Louch in their new book, “The Key Man: The True Story of How The Global Elite was Duped by a Capitalist Fairy Tale” (Harper Business), out now.
It turned out Naqvi had allegedly taken around $780 million from his funds, $385 million of which remains unaccounted for. He is now facing a potential 291 years in jail. And all because “while Arif was in New York, the employee broke ranks and sent an anonymous e-mail to investors . . . [warning] about years of wrongdoing at Abraaj.” It was a bombshell that led to the “largest collapse of a private equity firm in history.”
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But how did one man spin a story that allowed him to con some of the world’s smartest investors?
Naqvi was born in 1960 in Karachi, Pakistan, where he went to the city’s highly selective grammar school. He later attended the London School of Economics.
In 2003, he established Abraaj after raising $118 million, much of it from “Middle Eastern governments, royals, and traders,” and announced his intention to invest in ways that would help conquer global poverty.
In April 2010, he was invited by President Barack Obama, along with 250 other Muslim business leaders, to a Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. There, Naqvi gave a speech about the importance of impact investing and how a billion children would need training and jobs in the coming decades.
“It can only happen,” Naqvi told the gathering, “through entrepreneurship.”
Two months later, the US government invested $150 million in Abraaj.
Naqvi did put his money where his mouth was — to a point.
After taking control of his local electric company, Karachi Electric, in 2008, Naqvi made the electricity more reliable and the company profitable. But he also reduced the workforce by 6,000 employees, leading to riots.
Meanwhile, he distracted the West with massive charitable grants.
“Arif gave millions of dollars to universities around the world, including Johns Hopkins University in the United States, and the London School of Economics, which named a professorship after Abraaj,” the authors write. “Following in the footsteps of billionaire philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates, Arif started a $100 million charitable organization called the Aman Foundation to improve health care and education in Pakistan.”
But Naqvi also enjoyed the high life, flying around on “a private Gulfstream jet with a personalized tail number — M-ABRJ — and sailed on yachts to meet new investors who could help increase his fortune.”
By 2007, Naqvi had moved into “a palatial new mansion in Dubai’s luxurious, gated Emirates Hills district . . . known as the Beverly Hills of Dubai.”
He was a regular at Davos and similar conferences, where he became friendly with the likes of Gates, who was the guest of honor at a dinner at Naqvi’s home in 2012.
“Bill and Arif had much to discuss,” the authors write. “They agreed that their charitable foundations would work together on a family planning program in Pakistan. Arif seemed to be precisely who Bill was looking for. He was wealthy and concerned for the poor.”
Naqvi was granted a $100 million investment from the Gates Foundation to supposedly invest in hospitals and clinics in emerging markets. This investment, in the new Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund, helped Naqvi attract $900 million more from other investors.
“This is a significant co-investment partnership,” Gates said about the deal. “It is also an example of the kind of smart partnerships that hold huge promise for the future.”
In reality, Naqvi had already started misusing the money with a “secretive treasury department” that not even most of his employees knew about, the authors write.
“Abraaj was really made up of a tangled web of more than three hundred companies based mostly in tax havens around the world.”
Required by regulators to keep millions of dollars in a bank account for emergencies, the account was usually close to empty, the authors write.
“Just before the end of each quarter, when Abraaj Capital had to report to the regulator, Arif and his colleagues moved money into the account to make it seem like it contained the required amount. A few days [later], they emptied the account again.”
Abraaj’s employees also frequently raided one fund to pay dividends on others in “a crude kind of fraud known as a Ponzi scheme,” the authors write.
On Jan. 9, 2014 — around the time Naqvi served alongside Richard Branson as the headline attractions at an Oxford forum on social entrepreneurship — a manager in his finance department wrote to him that “we will have a deficit of $100 million by January 15th.”
Naqvi “had to choose between telling investors and lenders the truth, and pretending everything was going according to plan. He chose the path of deception,” the authors write.
In 2015, Naqvi “paid himself $53.75 million” and also “kept $154 million of the proceeds of [a] share sale to spend as he saw fit and deprived his investors of their gain,” the authors write.
Not long after, a fund manager at the Gates Foundation, Andrew Farnum, started to get suspicious. Despite The Abraaj Group showing no movement on previous investments, the organization was still asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in additional investment from Gates.
In September 2017, Farnum wrote an e-mail asking for the location of Gates’ current funds and how they were invested, as well as a schedule of upcoming investments.
“Andrew’s tone was polite, but the implications of his questions were ominous,” the authors write. “He was asking Abraaj to prove it wasn’t misusing the money of one of the world’s richest men.”
While Abraaj sent vague assurances and old bank statements, Farnum pressed on for more details.
One week later, the anonymous Abraaj employee sent the incriminating e-mail to the fund’s investors, revealing the organization’s shady dealings.
“Do your due diligence properly and ask the right questions. You will be amazed at what you discover,” the e-mail read.
“The areas you should focus in are like unrealized gains valuations — they are manipulated beyond anything you have seen in a fund and easy to discover. Don’t believe what the partners send you . . . Don’t believe what they tell you and check the fact. Protect yourself.”
Immediately, the walls caved in.
“The investors no longer trusted Abraaj and wanted their money back. The trouble was, Abraaj didn’t have it,” the authors write.
The Gates Foundation hired a forensic accounting team to investigate Abraaj’s books. Throughout all this, Naqvi was still meeting with potential investors, trying to raise $6 billion for a new fund.
Around this time, Naqvi appeared in a televised debate on global health care at Davos with Gates.
“Bill shifted uncomfortably in his seat and pursed his lips,” the authors write. “Whenever Arif attempted to make eye contact or engage him in conversation, Bill looked the other way.”
In October 2018, the authors published an article exposing Abraaj’s alleged misdeeds in The Wall Street Journal.
“At least $660 million of investors’ money was moved without their knowledge into Abraaj’s hidden bank accounts,” the authors reported. “Then more than $200 million had flowed from these accounts to Arif and people close to him.”
Finally, US prosecutors accused Naqvi of running a criminal organization. On April 10, 2019, he was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport and his extradition has been ordered so he can stand trial in New York for fraud.
Despite the paper trail, Naqvi has “maintained his innocence” as he remains under house arrest in London while awaiting a decision on his appeal. His company’s name has been removed from the professorship at the LSE.
In the meantime, his shocking story serves as a cautionary tale to wealthy — but gullible — investors seeking to fix world poverty.
Poor people, the authors write, would have “benefited more if Arif had carried his millions to the top of a tall building in Karachi and thrown them into the sky, letting the wind scatter dollar bills across the city.”
FBI Arrests Celebrated Nigerian Medical Doctor, Nwaokwu For Multimillion-Dollar Healthcare Fraud
ANigerian medical doctor, Patrick Nwaokwu, has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for his involvement in multimillion-dollar healthcare fraud.
50-year-old Nwaokwu was arrested on July 9, barely 24 hours after the United States issued a warrant of arrest on July 8.
According to Peoples Gazette, the medical doctor alongside his associates, Musa Bangura and Johanah Napoleon face charges for “conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud; conspiracy to commit false statements relating to health care matters, and false statements relating to health care matters.”
The suspects are accused of selling fraudulent transcripts and diplomas, listing courses which unqualified individuals purportedly took as well as their grades. The nurses were subsequently employed at various healthcare facilities in Maryland.
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The court document revealed that the FBI in 2019 received information that Messrs Nwaokwu and Bangura created illegal transcripts and certificates through a privately-owned nursing school (Nursing School 1) in northern Virginia.
“From August 8, 2008 to June 30, 2013, Nursing School 1 was a nursing school in Virginia until it was shut down for violating certain state regulations by the Virginia Board.
“After that time, Nwaokwu and Bangura continued to illegitimately operate Nursing School 1 as a place where people could go to simply purchase illegitimate LPN transcripts and certifications that are backdated to June 30, 2013,” the 35-page document stated.
1 In Every 4 Nigerian Youths Is An Internet Fraudster – Cleric Alleges
Acleric, Muyeedeen Ayede, has advocated for the reorientation of young people, saying one in four Nigerian youths have taken to internet fraud as an occupation.
Mr Ayede stated this on Monday at the 1443 Hijrah grand rally organised by Oyo state chapter of the National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations (NACOMYO) in Ibadan.
Expressing worries over the rate at which youths were getting involved in internet fraud, Mr Ayede said, “Internet fraud is not only limited to the educated ones, many youths now abandon their apprenticeship to go into ‘yahoo yahoo’.
“In fact, out of every four youths, one is into ‘yahoo yahoo’,’’ he stated.
The cleric said the trend must not be allowed to continue, calling for Nigerians to re-orientate themselves if the desired progress and development of the country must take place.
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Also speaking on the theme “Security, Peace-building and National Integration: Muslim Youths as Agent of National Stability,” Mr Ayede said that restructuring is not the solution to the numerous problems facing Nigeria but re-orientation of the citizens.
According to Mr Ayede, what is needed in Nigeria is for citizens to have positive mindsets about the country and place national interest above selfish interests.
Dawud Noibi, a former executive secretary of the Muslim Ummah of South-West Nigeria (MUSWEN), maintained that unity was essential for Nigeria’s peace and progress.
Mr Noibi decried the agitation for an Oodua Republic, stressing that the intention behind it was ill-motivated.
Chairman on the occasion and deputy president general (South) of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Rasaki Oladejo, urged Muslims to shun evil acts and allow Hijrah to have positive impacts on their lives.
Earlier, the coordinator of the Oyo state chapter of NACOMYO, Dawood Afolabi, said the theme was due to the prevailing security situation in the country.
Mr Afolabi lauded the state government for declaring a public holiday to mark the Hijrah, urging the governor, Seyi Makinde, to ensure fairness to adherents of all religions.
In his remarks, the state deputy governor, Rauf Olaniyan, called for continuous engagement with the government and appealed to NACOMYO to be patient with the present administration.
Abba Kyari Exposed In Bribe Scandal By HushPuppi
Nigeria’s infamous suspected fraudster, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, alias Hushpuppi, who recently pleaded guilty in the United States, has narrated how he bribed Nigeria’s celebrated Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, according to court documents.
According to the US Department of Justice, a criminal complaint initiated the prosecution of Hushpuppi in February as court documents ordered unsealed showed that Abbas, a 37-year-old Nigerian national, pleaded guilty on April 20.
A version of Abbas’ plea agreement filed late Tuesday outlines his role in the school-finance scheme, as well as several other cyber and business email compromise schemes that cumulatively caused more than $24million in losses.
Officials said in court filings that Abbas disclosed during interrogation that he paid bribes to Nigeria’s police chief, Kyari, to have one of his rivals arrested and jailed in Nigeria following a dispute over a $1.1million dupe of a Qatari businessperson.
Abbas had asked Kyari to arrest and jail a fellow fraudster Kelly Chibuzor Vincent after both were locked in a dispute presumably over how to share the $1.1million loot received from the Qatari businessperson.
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Vincent subsequently contacted the victim and informed them that they were being scammed by a syndicate involving him and Abbas.
This elicited anger from Abbas, who contacted Kyari to arrest and jail his rival over the dispute. Abbas said Kyari sent pictures of Vincent in jail and subsequently sent his bank account number to Abbas to which a wire transfer should be made having done a good job as sent by Abbas.
“Court documents outline a dispute among members of the conspiracy, which allegedly prompted Vincent to contact the victim and claim that Abbas and Juma were engaged in fraud. After this contact, Abbas allegedly arranged to have Vincent jailed in Nigeria by Abba Alhaji Kyari, 46, of Nigeria.
“According to the affidavit, Kyari is a highly decorated deputy commissioner of the Nigeria Police Force who is alleged to have arranged for Vincent to be arrested and jailed at Abbas’ behest, and then sent Abbas photographs of Vincent after his arrest. Kyari also allegedly sent Abbas bank account details for an account into which Abbas could deposit payment for Vincent’s arrest and imprisonment,” U.S. Justice department said in a statement.
After the $1.1 million fraud was successful, Abbas spent $230,000 on a watch and also bribed officials at St. Kitts and Nevis for his citizenship of that island country
“Approximately $230,000 of the stolen funds allegedly were used to purchase a Richard Mille RM11-03 watch, which was hand delivered to Abbas in Dubai and subsequently appeared in Hushpuppi’s social media posts.
“Other illicit proceeds from the scheme were allegedly converted into cashier’s checks, including $50,000 in checks that were used by Abbas and a co-conspirator to fraudulently acquire a St. Christopher and Nevis citizenship, as well as a passport for Abbas obtained by creating a false marriage certificate and then bribing a government official in St. Kitts,” officials said.
Abbas pleaded guilty to multi-million fraud earlier this month and faces up to 20 years in jail.
He will be sentenced in the coming weeks and will forfeit some of his assets and his rights to appeal while also paying restitution to victims of his years-long fraud.
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