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BoD of Dubai-based Abraaj comes under scrutiny

May 10, 2019

Dubai: Board of directors of Abraaj, the Dubai-based private equity firm that collapsed following allegations of fraud and fund mismanagement, is likely to face both regulatory and investor scrutiny , Gulf News quoted sources close to the case, as saying.

Abraaj, which managed close to $14 billion (Dh51.42 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 healthcare fund.

Key executives of the company Arif Naqvi, the Abraaj Group founder, Mustafa Abdel-Wadood and Sev Vettivetpillai, both former managing partners were arrested last month on charges of fraud.

While Abdel-Wadood secured a $10 million bond bail with severe court imposed conditions on his movement outside his Manhattan apartment, Vettivetpillai is out on bail in London.

Although Naqvi has secured a $20 billion bail, his release from jail is subject to furnishing the bond amount.

While a London court case to extradite Naqvi and Vettivetpillai to the United States on fraud charges is scheduled for May 24, many in the private equity industry, banking fraternity and investors in private equity are wondering if the members of the board too will be called to explain how the funds got diverted without any oversight. “Key members of the management team are held accountable for alleged fraud, but what about the responsibility of the board members in such violations. How come none of the board didn’t have a clue of the issue?,” asked the managing director of a UAE based private equity firm.

Abraaj’s board has prominent figures from both global and regional private equity industry.

The collapse of Abraaj has focused renewed scrutiny on corporate governance standards in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

With the reports of whistle blowers warning the Abraaj investors as early as September 2017 on governance issues, many investors say it is surprising that the board didn’t bother to question the management.

Global rating agency Standard & Poor’s had warned of the weak corporate governance in the region as early as 2017.

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