Case Against Abraaj Widens With Third Arrest

Arif Naqvi, the founder and ex-chief executive officer of Abraaj
Arif Naqvi on Sept. 15, 2017. Photographer: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — A US criminal case against former executives at buyout fund Abraaj Group, which collapsed last year in the world’s biggest private-equity insolvency, widened following the arrest of a third director.

Sev Vettivetpillai, a former managing partner, faces possible extradition to the U.S., while a number of other officials were named as alleged co-conspirators. He remains in custody while prosecutors appeal the 1 million-pound ($1.3 million) bail granted by a London judge, his lawyer, Kate Goold, said after a court hearing Thursday.

Arif Naqvi, the founder and ex-chief executive officer of Abraaj, also appeared in court following his arrest earlier this month, according to court records. Naqvi also remains in custody, according to a court official.

Vettivetpillai is suspected of conspiring with Naqvi “to inflate valuations of positions held by Abraaj funds in order to obtain greater investment from U.S. investors,” according to a London court filing. Waqar Siddique, and Ashish Dave, the fund’s then chief financial officer, were named as co-conspirators, according to the court filing.

Founded in 2002, Abraaj grew to become the Middle East’s biggest private equity fund and one of the world’s most influential emerging-market investors, with stakes in health care, clean energy, lending and real estate across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Turkey. But last year Naqvi surrendered control after it was revealed that the firm’s main revenues hadn’t covered operating costs for years.

Abraaj, which managed almost $14 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 health-care fund.

Naqvi is charged with inflating the value of the Dubai-based firm’s holdings and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. Another former managing partner, Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, was arrested in New York last week.

Jane Glass, a lawyer for Naqvi in London, couldn’t be immediately reached to comment.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Browning in London at [email protected]; William Mathis in London at [email protected]; Stefania Bianchi in Dubai at [email protected]

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