by Hisham Alwan
Email: [email protected]
In previous articles 1 to 3 we highlighted the endemic corruption of Mohammed Jouan Al Badie Al Dhaheri and his son and associate Khalid al Badie, chairman and vice chairman respectively and owners of the Al Badie Group. In those articles, the focus was specifically on the roles of Mohammed Al Badie and his one-time indispensable and trusted ex-marketing manager Mr Majid Shunnag.
Explosive new information has now come to light that totally exonerates Mr Shunnag who contributed vastly to the legitimate and lawful success of the Al Badie business but inspite of his valued service and his intimate knowledge of all aspects of the Al Badies’ business including where all the bodies are buried, will be shown to have fallen out of grace and coerced to cover up the corrupt practices of both Mohammed Al Badie and his son Khaled al Badie who now runs the Al Badie empire in Abu Dhabi. The new information will shed new light on the Al Badies’ modus operandi of extortion and intimidation of defenceless foreign clients and associates and the practice of bribery and graft to leverage their position and facilitate negotiations with entities belonging to the Abu Dhabi Government with the aim of securing projects on behalf of the foreign companies they represent. Once the new evidence is collated, assessed and cross-referenced by specialists in the field and anti-corruption establishments in the UK and U.S. the relevant defrauded parties will take the appropriate legal steps.
The old saying ‘Old habits die hard’ rings true for the Al Badies. In a recurring pattern of behavior, Khaled Al Badie reinvents himself as the central figure in a high profile international bribery case in the UK. Al Badie who has a sordid history of corruption was most notably highlighted in the criminal case brought by the Serious Fraud Office of the United Kingdom in February 2016 at Southwark Crown Court against Sweett Group plc, a British consultancy company for making corrupt payments to Khaled Al Badie, on demand, intended to secure and retain a contract in relation to building the Rotana Hotel in Dubai by the Al Badie owned Ain Ahlia Insurance Company (AAAI) contrary to Section 7 of the UK Bribery Act”. This was the first time a company was found guilty of this offence in the UK and the first time that the corrupt activities of a prominent Abu Dhabi national had been so publicly heard in a foreign court.
In July, 2014, the SFO opened an investigation into Sweett Group plc after a tip-off by the Wall Street Journal that it was about to publish allegations that Sweett had engaged in bribery in Abu Dhabi in respect of a hospital project in Morocco funded by Abu Dhabi’s personal foundation.
The court heard that Cyril Sweett International, a subsidiary of Sweett Group plc, having won a £1.6 million contract in 2013 from AAAI for project management and cost consultancy services in relation to the building of the Dubai Rotana hotel, paid kickbacks worth £680,000 to Khaled Al Badie in the period from December 2012 to December 2015 under a ‘sham’ consulting subcontract to a company, North Property Management (NPM) personally owned by Khaled Al Badie. The court described the contract with NPM – which was supposed to be for ‘hospitality services’ – as a ‘fiction’ and found Sweett guilty for failing to prevent bribery. Ironically the central figure Khalid Al Badie, who orchestrated the bribery for his personal benefit, was deemed to be beyond the reach of the UK jurisdiction in spite of the fact that he has a presence in the UK by virtue of being the sole beneficiary of Liberty Worldwide Investments Inc which owns the property known registered as Cedar House, Clare Hill, Esher KT10 9NB. In April 2017, ownership of Cedar House was changed to include Khaled Al Badie’s two younger siblings. Fortunately for him no Interpol notice was raised against him and no attempt made to bring him to justice.
The WSJ article that appeared on June 21, 2013 under the title of ‘Inside a Bribery Probe at Storied Architecture Firm HLW’ effectively forced Sweett’s hand to self-report the bribery to the SFO. The presiding judge remarked that Sweett delayed recognizing that the contract was ‘so obviously a bribe’ and despite the ongoing SFO investigation and Sweett contemplated creating an escrow account so it could continue making payments to Khaled Al Badie’s NPM. To cover their tracks, Sweett also sought a letter from Al Badie to characterise the bribery as a ‘legal finder’s fee’ under UAE law (which might mean they did not fall foul of the UK Bribery Act) which the court said was a ‘deliberate’ attempt to mislead the investigators. All this orchestration and deceit whilst Khaled Al Badie is deputy chairman of the board of AAAI and chairman of its Real Estate and Investment Committee who with his father Mohammed Al Badie, as chairman were the owners of AAAI. As father and protector, Mohammed Al Badie almost certainly had knowledge of his son’s bribery and moreover condoned if not encouraged it. Alternatively, Khaled Al Badie was deceiving his own father. It also meant that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC), a sovereign Abu Dhabi institution which owns 19.7% of AAAI was defacto defrauded by Khaled Al Badie, AAAI’s deputy chairman, whilst ADIC’s representative, HE Saad Al Ahbabi, was a board member.
His Honour Judge Beddoe presiding at Southwark Crown Court on 12 February 2016 fined Sweett Group GBP 2.25m in penalties after pleading guilty to failure to prevent bribery of Khaled Al Badie. After the court verdict Al Badie’s PR firm released the following statement on his behalf, sic “he strongly denies any wrongdoing. Any engagement was under a properly constituted and legal contract. Mr Al Badie has not been interviewed or indeed approached by the SFO. He has no knowledge of the motivation behind the agreement between Sweett Group and the SFO”. As a direct cause of Khaled Al Badie’s corrupt actions Sweett announced the closure of its entire Middle East offices. So much for Khaled Al Badie’s cynical denial of any wrongdoing.
And in another by-product arising from the corrupt relationship between Sweett and Al Badie, Richard Kingston, a former managing director of Sweett Group plc, was convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for destroying bribery and corruption evidence in connection with the afore-mentioned hospital project in Morocco first reported by the WSJ which wrote that Kingston met with a former employee of HLW International LLP, a US-based architecture firm, and purportedly told him that in order for HLW to obtain the work for a construction project (managed by Sweett subsidiary Cyril Sweett International Ltd) was a bribe would be required, allegedly 3.5% of the contract value and payable to an official inside the UAE president’s personal foundation (which was funding the project). In our next article we shall expand on this topic in further detail and give convincing reasons that the unnamed intermediary between Kingston and the official in the foundation could only have been Khaled Al Badie himself and due to its sensitive nature, Richard Kingston was told to destroy all relevant evidence of bribery and corruption.