(adds email from Abraaj’s founder)
By Davide Barbuscia and Stanley Carvalho
DUBAI, June 14 (Reuters) - A family involved with Abraaj handed over debt exposure to the private equity firm to a little-known fund that has now filed a petition against Abraaj, deepening its financial woes, sources said.
An adviser to the Jafar family said the family was not party to the legal proceedings started by Auctus Fund in the Cayman Islands against Abraaj, although Hamid Jafar had provided Abraaj with a private loan which has since been transferred to Auctus.
Dubai-based Abraaj has declined to comment on the petition. Badr Jafar, who sits on Abraaj’s board and is the son of Hamid, had not responded to Reuters request for comment on the lawsuit.
The Jafar family, which controls Sharjah-based conglomerate Crescent, is linked to Abraaj through Badr’s board membership and the fact that Hamid was a founding shareholder in the firm.
The petition was filed this month by Saint Vincent-based Auctus Fund against Abraaj Investment Management Ltd (AIML) for non-payment of a $100 million loan, according to a copy seen by Reuters.
Auctus Fund wants Abraaj’s investment management unit, AIML, to be wound up and Grant Thornton to be appointed official liquidators, according to the document.
It said Auctus’ “predecessor” extended $100 million to AIML on December 21, 2017, that was to be paid back on Feb. 28 under an oral agreement with Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi. Abraaj Holdings was supposed to provide security for the loan over its “unencumbered assets”, which it did not do.
Two cheques issued by AIML, dated Feb. 28, to the lender to partially secure repayment of the loan bounced on presentation on May 3, the court filing says.
Auctus is the second creditor to file a lawsuit against Abraaj, which on Thursday filed for provisional liquidation in the Cayman Islands, where it is incorporated.
“The recent events have caused Abraaj employees and our stakeholders undeniable pain and turbulence for which I apologize unreservedly,” Abraaj’s founder Arif Naqvi said in an email to shareholders and seen by Reuters.
“Despite all the rumors and briefings against us, and me personally, to my knowledge there was no intentional wrongdoing. In retrospect, however, I think things could have been done differently, and we might not be where we are today.”
The petition suggests further cracks at Abraaj which is trying to stem the fallout from a dispute with investors over alleged misuse of funds. It denies any wrongdoing.
The lawsuit sheds light on corporate governance practices at Abraaj which is facing a probe by four investors, including Bill Gates’ charitable trust and International Finance Corp, over the use of their money in a $1 billion healthcare fund. (Additional reporting and writing by Saeed Azhar Editing by Ghaida Ghantous/Keith Weir/Alexandra Hudson)