Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 July 2019

UK charity linked to Arif Naqvi faces winding up after Abraaj collapse

The Aman Foundation UK has raised money for Arif Naqvi’s philanthropic projects in Pakistan

Arif Naqvi, founder of the Abraaj Group, faces charges of financial wrongdoing related to his company. Reuters
Arif Naqvi, founder of the Abraaj Group, faces charges of financial wrongdoing related to his company. Reuters

The British arm of a charity set up by Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi is set to wind up its operations as it faces scrutiny from UK regulators following the collapse of the private equity giant, The National has learned.

The Charity Commission said it was “assessing information” following the arrest of Mr Naqvi on US fraud charges and would speak with trustees of the Aman Foundation UK about potential risks to the charity.

Mr Naqvi, 58, was detained on April 10 at London’s Heathrow Airport after flying in from Islamabad and faces extradition to the US for alleged fraud in connection with the collapse of his Dubai-based private equity group.

Just days before, Mr Naqvi’s wife, Fayeeza, described as the chair of trustees for the Aman Foundation UK, is understood to have canvassed opinion among colleagues about whether the charity should continue.

The British charity raised money for the larger Aman Foundation set up in Pakistan by the Naqvi family in 2008 to deliver health and education programmes in that country. The couple won a prize from French banking group BNP Paribas for their “individual philanthropy” in 2015 in connection with their work with the Aman Foundation.

Its work has included supplying a fleet of ambulances in a country where government health spending is among the lowest in the world.

But lawyers for the US authorities identified the Aman Foundation as a potential beneficiary for the “improper use” of $1 million (Dh3.67m) of investors’ money after Mr Naqvi asked the Abraaj cash controller about diverting money from one fund to cover shortfalls elsewhere, according to court documents.

Aman Foundation UK had offices at the Abraaj Group London’s headquarters in Mayfair – home to the most expensive commercial property in London – which was closed last year as part of insolvency cost-cutting measures.

Aman Foundation UK, which spent more than £2m (Dh9.5m) in 2016-17, also moved out of its office at Grosvenor Gardens, close to Buckingham Palace in central London, in December 2017, according to records held by the office supplier.

The charity has also failed to file its accounts which were due at the end of April. Late filing “can put off potential donors, funders or volunteers”, according to official guidance from the UK regulator, which will remind trustees of their “legal duties” to lodge accounts on time.

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said: “We are currently assessing information and will be engaging with the charity’s trustees to assess their response to this matter and any potential risks to the charity.”

There is no suggestion of financial wrongdoing at the Aman Foundation UK but a source close to the charity said its likely winding up followed a failure by fund-raisers to secure significant sums to fund its plans. “This [UK] charity has never really done very much,” the source said. “It’s been pretty much of a non-event.”

It is understood that Mr Naqvi had no involvement in the running of the UK arm of the charity and is not listed as a trustee.

He is accused by US authorities of playing the lead role in a scheme to defraud investors in funds run by the Abraaj Group and of personally benefiting to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds.

The Dubai-based company managed up to $14 billion in assets before its collapse following investors raising concerns about mismanagement of funds. Its demise represented the world’s largest private equity insolvency.

Mr Naqvi denies the allegations but has so far been unable to raise £15m to secure his freedom during an extradition process.

His lawyers cited his “philanthropic endeavours” when they sought bail, according to court documents.

Speaking before his arrest, Mr Naqvi sought to deflect attention from his family’s charitable works in the wake of the Abraaj collapse.

He claimed to The National that raising questions about the foundation’s finances could trigger a series of events “that could land up with someone being denied the ability to go to hospital and die by the roadside”.

He said: “The foundation is by the grace of God getting sufficient donations from the community to be able to continue its work without a single hiccup. That speaks volumes for its work, right?”

Mrs Naqvi did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Updated: May 11, 2019 03:31 PM

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