NatWest boss under scrutiny for PetroSaudi scheme to defraud Malaysia
Rick Haythornthwaite is being investigated for his previous work with the international oil business PetroSaudi, which is entangled in one of the world's greatest financial scandals.
The new chairman of NatWest is being investigated for his previous work with the international oil business PetroSaudi, which is entangled in one of the world's greatest financial scandals.
Rick Haythornthwaite, a City veteran and former MasterCard executive, worked for PetroSaudi International (UK) Ltd, the oil group's British affiliate, for eight years, earning £200,000 per year.
The oil company is accused of participating in a plot to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB, a sovereign wealth fund established to benefit Malaysia and its people.
Last month, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim revealed to CNBC that Malaysia is considering pursuing legal action against Goldman Sachs in connection with its involvement in the massive corruption scandal surrounding the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Malaysian prosecutors have said some $4.5 billion was stolen from the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) state fund, which was co-founded in 2009 and was supposed to promote development when Najib Razak was Prime Minister.
A lower court in July 2020 found Najib guilty of abuse of power, money laundering, and criminal breach of trust over the transfer of $10.1m (42 million Malaysian ringgit) from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB, to his personal bank account.
Goldman Sachs played a pivotal role in the scandal by assisting 1MDB in raising $6.5 billion through two bond offerings. In return, the bank earned substantial fees amounting to $600 million, the US Justice Department said.
Haythornthwaite is not accused of any wrongdoing, but the issue calls into question his judgment while working for the oil company and whether he behaved correctly when the claims were initially made.
NatWest Group said last week that Haythornthwaite will be its next chair after the departure of chief executive Alison Rose. The government controls 38.6% of the NatWest Group, although the company operates independently.
1MDB was established in 2009 and raised billions of dollars in bonds. According to the US Department of Justice, between 2009 and 2014, individuals and businesses, including PetroSaudi, siphoned billions of dollars from the fund.
According to The Observer, when PetroSaudi CEO Tarek Obaid negotiated a joint venture with 1MDB on the luxury yacht Alfa Nero off the coast of Monaco in 2009, he called Haythornthwaite for advice. The joint business is currently being investigated by US and Swiss authorities.
Haythornthwaite worked for PetroSaudi for nearly a year after the company was originally suspected of stealing cash from 1MDB and quitting in mid-2016, after growing more concerned about the allegations.
'Heist of the century'
According to a source close to Haythornthwaite, he was never a director or "privy to the action of the owners" and never witnessed any wrongdoing.
Clare Rewcastle Brown, an activist and journalist, wrote to Haythornthwaite in December 2015, presenting to him over 220,000 papers from PetroSaudi's computers that disclosed the alleged financial impropriety and had published an online exposé on the PetroSaudi and 1MDB agreement titled "Heist of the Century" earlier in 2015.
"Even if I were in possession of information relevant to your query," Haythornthwaite answered. "I would be unwilling to assist you in your questionable activities."
The Swiss Attorney General's Office said in April that it has filed an indictment against two PetroSaudi executives for theft of 1MDB cash. Haythornthwaite is said to have been approached as a witness or possible witness.
According to a draft employment contract reviewed by The Observer between Haythornthwaite and PetroSaudi International (UK) Ltd, his "basic salary will be £200,000 a year" and a working week of at least two and a half days. It further states that, subject to certain conditions, he will be eligible for bonuses of £1 million by February 28, 2011, and £1 million within two months of 1 June 2014.
According to sources close to Haythornthwaite, several versions of contracts were drafted between him and PetroSaudi, and he did not get the £2 million in incentives.
Another paper, which appears to have been produced by Haythornthwaite, suggested using a Coutts plan to offshore his bonus fund. A source, however, revealed that "his role at PetroSaudi UK was a part-time advisory assignment focusing on the "exploration and production activities of the UK subsidiary."
" At no time did he see any evidence of wrongdoing, but as rumors increased he decided to step away," the source said.