High Court grants Putrajaya temporary preservation order over RM1.45b 1MDB funds in the UK, pending full hearing
(MMO) – Putrajaya today were granted an interim preservation order over funds in excess of US$340 million (RM1.45 billion) currently place within a trust account in the United Kingdom.
The interim order was granted by High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali against five respondents, named as Tarek Obaid, PetroSaudi International Ltd, PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) Ltd, the Clyde and Co legal firm, and Temple Fiduciary Services Limited.
“The court has the jurisdiction to grant the interim preservation order, under Section 53 of the Anti Money Laundering Act, which I now grant.
“And, which will be enforced until the disposal of the hearing of the main application,” said Mohd Nazlan.
Proceedings earlier had heard arguments from both sides in what was initially set to be an ex parte application, after Tarek’s legal representative Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden, and Alex Tan Chie Sian representing PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) were present in court today.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Budiman Lutfi and Muhammad Izzat Fauzan represented the government, while Muhammad Nizamuddin Abdul Hamid represented the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) as an amicus curiae.
This comes as the government seeks to freeze part of an award settlement from arbitration proceedings between PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) and Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, should the judgement go in favour of PetroSaudi.
The total amount in question is US$340,258,246.87, with the order applied for under Section 53 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
Tarek was named as a respondent as the co-founder of PetroSaudi International Ltd, the parent company of PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela), and is said to also own accounts named under Temple Fiduciary Services.
The monies being sought is currently placed under the custody of the Clyde and Co London-based legal firm, appointed as an escrow agent to the arbitration proceedings, amounting to US$500 million (RM2.13 billion) in total.
Earlier, Mohd Yusof and Tan had argued that documents showed how MACC were in contact with their UK counterparts, namely the International Anti Corruption Coordination Centre (IACCC), since January and a push for the matter to be heard urgently six-months down the line indicated there was no actual rush.
Both had told the court that their clients had learned of the application against them only through media reports and that they were only hired as legal counsels late yesterday evening, as they justified their request for time to respond to the government’s suit.
“They (MACC) have been communicating with their counterparts and knew about the proceedings in the UK, and yet they didn’t do anything, and now they say it’s urgent, which I think is unfair to the respondents.
“The MACC was in the loop since January but no steps were taken,” said Mohd Yusof.
To this Budiman then replied that despite MACC investigations beginning in January, the local agency is not a party to the UK arbitration proceedings, and are depending on information from their UK counterparts.
As such, he explained that MACC was only alerted of the latest development by their foreign counterparts on July 10, where they were told that an appeal had been filed in the UK by one of the respondents to withdraw the funds, triggering their application for the prohibition order the following Monday.
Budiman then again stressed on the importance of restricting the movement of funds situated in the escrow account, as one of the beneficiaries is a person wanted by our authorities, referring to Tarek.
“Once the monies is released and dispersed to the third and first respondents, that will be the last of when we see the money.
“This application, the essence of it is, to maintain the status quo over the money within the accounts.
“Once the money is released and dispersed, there is nothing we can do to stop the money from ending up anywhere, that is why we have filed this application under Section 53 (of AMLA) for the restraining order,” he said.
Mohd Nazlan, after allowing for the interim preservation order, then set August 28 for the full hearing of the application to allow time to both parties to respond and send in their written submissions to the court.