Hussain Al Nowais: The medievalism of the Arab capitalism facing the test of the third millennium

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Until a few years ago, criminals hid their illegal business and the resulting income in tax havens close to their homes – where clients, lawyers and bankers spoke the same language: Zurich, Amsterdam, Vaduz, Monte Carlo, Luxembourg, Gibraltar, Lugano, Panama[1]. Then the Egmont Group[2] was born, and with it a whole host of international anti-corruption organizations (like the FATF[3]) and governments were (unintentionally) forced to fight offshore jurisdictions – these are the places where business become a complete European secret, silently protected from the demands of justice and international authorities[4].

Each tax haven has created a second tax haven to protect the worst part of its business: Cyprus, Malta, Macau, Montevideo, Andorra, Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands, Liberia, etc[5]. Until these areas were also attacked by justice and administrators declared the “obscure” cases had to be suppressed further. By this time, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, were becoming the tip of the iceberg of international[6] evils – the place where political, financial, industrial, commercial and military power is concentrated in the hands of a family, which doesn’t care about international blacklists, embargoes, sanctions and threats, because it keeps everyone in check with oil and military alliances on the world’s most sensitive chessboard: the Persian Gulf.

Hussain Jasim Al Nowais has been one of the richest and most powerful men in the United Arab Emirates for over thirty years, the forerunner and the “primus inter pares” of a new elite of global corruption that was no longer secretly produced by obscure lawyers specializing in legal clauses, but politicians acting in full light[7]. Hussain Al Nowais is a quite good friend of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, his brother Mohammed (who is currently in power due to Khalifa’s serious illness) and the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Rasheed Al Maktoum[8]. He is the center of power in the Emirates and one of the most influential men in the world.

He is the founder, president and principal shareholder of Al Nowais Investments LLC and AMEA Power (the largest industrial company for the development of thermal and renewable energies in Africa, the Middle East and Asia). He is a director of the international tourism chain Rotana Hotel Management Corporation and, for a long time, vice president of ADCB Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. Al Nowais was previously President of Waha Capital (2006 to 2018), which he still owns[9]. He is a man famous for his political influence, his heritage, his role in the politics and economy of the Emirates, his philanthropic initiatives[10], but also for the scams, scandals and deceptions of which he is the protagonist from Italy to the Russia, from afar From the east to the United States, from Australia to the Persian Gulf[11].

In the years when his career peaked, the United Arab Emirates became the curtain behind which “the Afghan warlords, the Russian mafia, the Nigerian kleptocrats, the European money launderers, the Iranian sanctions and the gold traffickers. East Africa[12]”; “Dubai’s real estate market is depraved Money magnet designed to attract foreign buyers. The emirate is dominated by towers of luxury apartments and man-made islands with luxury villas”, and no one controls or announces who is buying or why[13]; Dubai is the place where “artisanal gold is hidden and recycled, especially in conflict regions of East and Central Africa[14]” ​​and the place where kafala[15], a modern version of the slave trade, is practiced[16].

Alstom and Union Railway, allies of modern world railways

The eastern part of the pharaonic Etihad Rail project – 1200 km of railroad through the countries of the Persian Gulf: the largest joint project between Alstom and Hussain Al-Nowais[17]

The Alstom group[18] is one of the main pillars of the French industrial system. It has nearly two hundred years of history (it was founded in 1836 by engineer André Koechlin in Mulhouse[19]) and is the company that electrified French railways and built modern electric locomotives after 1928[20]. The company has a long history of industrial success, but also of scandals[21], starting with the fact that it was fined in 2006 for not having replaced asbestos in some of its infrastructures (as promised in 1986) and, according to the Lille court has left at least 10 dead and nearly 100 seriously ill[22] – Lille was only the first conviction: a decision followed by similar sanctions in other industrial sites that Alstom had not detoxified[23].

Most scandals relate to the establishment of cartels against the free market (for which Alstom was fined 750 million euros by the European Union[24]) or corruption, which often involves sensitive projects like construction, the installation and management of a by the State of Israel of the tram line which should have crossed the Palestinian Territories and was found to be an act of hostility (as later determined by the court in Nanterre, which ordered Alstom’s management to abandon the contract[25] and imposed a fine on it, which was then overturned on appeal[26]): an action comparable to a military invasion[27].

Corruption cases are linked to calls for tenders for contracts worth several billion in various countries around the world: these are the findings of criminal investigations by the courts of Tunisia, Malaysia, Latvia[28], Zambia, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahamas, Taiwan[29] and Brazil[30] – all cases, which were first convicted by a US federal court which imposed a fine of $ 770 million on Alstom in 2015[31]. In this first judgment, a Another fine of 16.4 million pounds (around 17.5 million euros) was added in 2019, imposed by a UK court for bribing Tunisian officials[32]. In 2011, Switzerland added the Alstom group to the blacklist of companies that use corruption as a “system of commercial practice” and fined the company 38.9 million francs (around 31.5 million euros)[33].

Hussain Al-Nowais took part in these operations not out of friendship, but because he is chairman of the board of the URC Union Railway Company – the state-owned railway company of the United Arab Emirates, which has been in crisis for years at because of those arriving in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Orders are not enough to maintain profitability[34].

Hussain Al-Nowais has paid bribes himself and, in cooperation with Alstom, has repeatedly won contracts worth billions of dollars for them[35] – like the 3 billion euro contract for the modernization of Moroccan railways[36], which, among the institutional partners, also includes the ADFD Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (the investment fund of the government of the Emirates which invests in more than 50 developing countries)[37], which has invested $ 1 billion in the project[38].

In the case of the gigantic project of the 1200 km long railway line that will connect all the countries of the Persian Gulf to the borders with Oman (Etihad Rail, a company controlled by the State of the United Arab Emirates[39]), Al-Nowais has brought in his friends from Alstom a billion dollar contract, the cost of which has not yet been finalized, which will surely exceed the 60 billion dollar mark[40].

In addition, the Etihad Rail project, which should have been completed in 2021, has been considerably delayed, it has already cost 60 billion dirhams (16.3 billion dollars), and is not expected to pay off before 2040[41]. The first Project phase ended in 2014 with the construction of Shah, Shaban and Al Rowais stations[42]. Liquidity was increased through participation in the ADNOC Abu Dhabi National Oil Company[43] investment in exchange for Al Nowais’ active role in acquiring ADNOC contracts overseas[44].

The Alstomgate explosion

The proposed sale of an Alstom business unit to General Electric, the biggest financial scandal in French industrial history of the last quarter of a century, is at the origin of the hidden amounts of the accounts, which were then used in competes with Hussain Al-Nowais in subsequent corruption deals[45]

The most famous case, known as Alstomgate, emerged from a 2008 report published by the NGO Transparency International which concerned corruption cases involving various multinational companies associated with the military and transport industries[46]. The scandal overwhelmed Italy, where the national electricity company (ENEL), through Hussain Al-Nowais and four executives responsible for negotiating orders abroad, favored Alstom USA for various contracts. in Lombardy and Sardinia[47].

Hussain Al Nowais is the one addressing ENEL executives on behalf of Alstom, as he confirmed in the trial as a co-defendant and witness against former ENEL Power CEO Luigi Giuffrida[48]. Giuffrida was also investigated for other bribes for the Ansaldo[49] company during that time – and was subsequently convicted in both cases[50]. Al-Nowais confesses everything before the judge, convinced that he is right[51]: he was ordered by the Milanese court to reimburse the amount of the bribe (597,220 euros) to the Italian state, to spend three days in prison and a fine of 240,000 euros[52] to pay – a fine paid by the company on whose behalf he was acting: that of the family of Sheikh Al-Nahyan.

The same criminal trial took place in Germany around the same time, when Siemens was involved in the corruption system created by ENEL, Alstom and Hussein Al-Nowais: the Arab businessman negotiated with the German multinational for the account of one of its financial intermediaries, MEEISCO (Middle East Energy & Industrial Service) Llc Abu Dhabi[53], which had an offshore bank account in the Principality of Monaco (the Zaghy 12[54]) through which money from UAE companies, Daimler Chrysler[55], ENEL[56] and Alstom was transferred[57].

Once again, Al-Nowais publicly admitted all the charges, leading to the conviction of all German leaders involved[58]. A consequence of the scandal hit Poland: at the end of the 1990s, Bohdan Zun (managing director of MetroProjekt[59], the public company responsible for the construction and management of the Warsaw metro[60]) placed an order with Alstom to worth 105 million euros for the delivery of wagons – with a rigged contract and in exchange for bribes[61]. The same happened in Barcelona in 2010, where an Alstom adviser, Tadeusz Nowak, was arrested in Barcelona on the same charges[62].

Dubai, crossroads of the international underworld

The awe-inspiring skyline view of the DMCC Dubai Multi Commodities Center, the world’s largest and richest tax haven, the epicenter of international crime which is tenaciously protected by the government of the United Arab Emirates[63]

Al-Nowais’ vicissitudes on the global corruption chessboard do not frighten the government of the United Arab Emirates, but they are rather open to this businessman, precisely because of his ties to the industrial leaders of the United Arab Emirates. The European Union and the United States, and they widen the doors to him to the most secret and influential areas of power of the Sheikhs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi: in 2006, even amid the legal dispute in which Al-Nowais under investigation in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the United States, United Arab Emirates regent Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has been appointed head of Khalifa Fund – the investment fund for small and medium-sized businesses of the royal family which bears the name of the regent’s father[64].

That’s not all. The government of the UAE appoints him to the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi Economic Development Council: the body that has absolute power over decisions of the financial, industrial, commercial and military policy of the UAE and its council of the administration[65], with the exception of Hussein Al-Nowais, only includes members of the royal family[66]. Within this organization, Al-Nowais is responsible for making decisions regarding large international investors who are invited to do business in or with the Emirates[67], and when Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has friendly heads of state like the president Pakistani Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister of the government of Islamabad, Shawkat Aziz meets, Hussain Al Nowais is part of the representative delegation of the State[68].

The list of his government positions seems endless: Family Business Council Gulf, Asia Business Council, Arab Business Council of the World Economic Forum, Wilson Center Global Advisory Council (GAC), MENA Infrastructure Fund, ZonesCorp, Etihad Rail, Abu Dhabi Ports Company, KIZAD Khalifa industrial area Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange, Al Dhafra Insurance Company, InvestBank, Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, United States Arab Chamber of Commerce, Khalifa University of Science, Technology and The research[69]: Almost all the appointments were made by Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who named him considered one of his most trusted men[70].

The position of these two men on corruption is very clear, explains Al Nowais to the Davos World Economic Forum[71] panel on corruption[72], a session called PACI Vanguard[73]: Al Nowais participates as chairman of the board of his investment Al Nowais[74] and argues that bribery is a real business in business, just like the legitimate one, which is also subject to the laws and rules of supply and demand, which it is essential for business and always has been – and that there is nothing wrong with using it as a method of capitalist competition[75].

The Abraaj scandal and ties to Pakistan

A cartoon symbolizing the collapse of the Abraaj Group, a Pakistani mutual fund based in Dubai whose partner and board member is Al Nowais, which burned $ 385 million in clients between 2009 and 2018 and became the biggest scandal of any private equity group in history[76]

The meeting between the President and the Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Hussain Al Nowais on January 19, 2020 is not a coincidence[77]: in May 2006, the Pakistani government and the government of the United Arab Emirates decided to combine a sum $ 1 billion unpublished Karachi-based ENSHAANLC Developments (Pvt.) Limited, controlled by Abraaj Capital Dubai[78], of which Al Nowais is vice chairman[79], has invested $ 1 billion annually in an equity fund of health products around the world[80].

The group was founded in 2002 by Al Nowais with the Pakistani businessman (with the passport of the tax haven of Saint-Kitts) Ariq Naqvi[81], who, thanks to the relations of his partner in Dubai, convinces a large group of personalities wealthy investors to invest in its funds – including the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation[82]. In the early years, one of the reasons for the market downturn in Abraaj’s business was the very close relationship with KPMG – so strong that the son of a KPMG Global executive also became a partner of Abraaj Capital[83].

The Abraaj Group is investing unprecedented figures in insurance, retirement and health systems in Africa: $ 375 million for North Africa[84] and $ 990 million for sub-Saharan Africa[85]. In 2018, international rating agencies and some clients begin to suspect that the figures reported by management are inaccurate and that in reality there are speculative losses and even fraud on the part of the group’s executives[86].

Soon, the whole case knows a bitter end[87]: in April 2019, on the orders of the FBI, the British authorities arrested manager Sev Vettivetpillai[88]. In July, authorities in Dubai fined Ariq Naqvi and his manager Mustafa Abdel-Wadood[89] $ 315 million for discovering they had pocketed millions of dollars from clients[90]. Before Naqvi goes bankrupt, he takes a desperate step and tries to persuade Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to buy the whole Abraaj group through his private industry, the Mudabala group[91] – but no one in Dubai is more willing to pay to save the Pakistani partner[92].

In the spring of 2019, Ariq Naqvi was arrested by order of the American judicial authorities[93]. In August, a Dubai court sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison[94]; The entire Abraaj group has since been liquidated and the UAE government is taking the necessary steps not to let it be known how much the country’s many institutional investors have lost due to the Pakistani giant’s bankruptcy[95].

For Al-Nowais, this is not the first disaster in Central Asia. In 2010, faced with the crisis of his Osian group[96] (which had turned out to be a fraud[97] and therefore failed[98]), art dealer Neville Tuli[99] launched a new project called India Asian Arab Art Fund with the noble intention of transforming the artistic landscape (in painting, sculpture and cinema) to revive the Persian Gulf region of India – and receive money from the patriotic billionaires of the Persian Gulf[100].

Ariq Naqvi and Hussain Al Nowais decide to believe in him and in 2013 Abraaj Capital joined the Osian group with a massive injection of cash of $ 20 million, or 9.4% of Osian’s capital[101]. Both groups are wrong: Abraaj Investment Management Ltd. Dubai (the Abraaj group company which operates the acquisition and has contractually guaranteed additional assistance for the implementation of the Tuli Fund archives) is not paying[102]. In contrast, the money paid to Tuli does not end up in the fund, but in the bank accounts of Bregawn Jersey Limited, and from there it disappears, so that Al Nowais denounces Tuli in a court in Mumbai[103]. Soon after, the lawsuit moved to London, where Abraaj Capital is fighting (so far to no avail) to recover $ 23 million from Tuli[104].

Global capitalism and the Arab medievalism

Hussain Al Nowais announces his resignation as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Waha Capital and his move to Cyprus[105]

All of this was in vain when Hussain Al Nowais’ protector Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan was forced to make a pragmatic and opportunistic decision[106]. On January 23, 2015, King Abdullah Al-Saud, seriously ill for several years[107], fell ill with pneumonia and dies[108]. A merciless struggle to seize power in Saudi Arabia begins, as the first one in the succession, Prince Sultan, is already 82 years old and he’s ill too[109].

The Al-Sa’ud family then elects the second in a row, Brother Salman, who is 79 years old, at that time, but is in good health[110]. Salman’s son, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who has just been elected Minister of Defense and Secretary General of the Royal Court[111], will then become Crown Prince – with a formidable opponent: Mohammed Bin Nayef, Minister of the Interior who benefits support from the elders of the Al-Sa’ud family[112], while Mohammed bin Salman, who was 31 at the time, is seen as a little boy who is unprepared for government office[113].

The old men are wrong. In just two years, Mohammed Bin Salman stages a coup d’état in the hearts of his family and ostensibly oust Bin Nayef and all those loyal[114] to him under the appearance to fight corruption – and orders the arrest of more than 200 important people, influential and very wealthy: including Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, the richest man in Arabia, and several military leaders[115].

Mohammed Bin Salman contradicts the economic policies of the countries of the Persian Gulf and declares as forever closed the era in which bribes were paid and received to obtain favors or contracts. He freezes an estimated figure between 400 and 800 billion of dollars[116]. Two years later, after the trials, facing 110 new judges, specially appointed by King Salman[117] for this purpose, the result was the confiscation of $ 108 billion and no jail time for anyone[118] – but with a fortified Mohammed bin Salman, becoming the autocratic and undisputed Saudi leader[119].

The prince has his own ideas and quickly puts them into practice. Upon taking office, he produced a project (Vision 2030) with far-reaching reforms ranging from industry to finance, from military to social affairs, and thus, at only 33, became “de facto” the real leader of Saudi Arabia[120]. While some of these reforms are seen as “progressive” (since 2017, Saudi women have been able to play sports and go to stadiums, drive cars and study science at university[121]), the Prince’s obvious goal is to cut off the wings of all those in the war rooms who, thanks to their own heritage, would have had the strength to question his autocratic power. At the same time, bin Salman decides to open-up to foreign investments, transforming Saudi Arabia into an international cultural hub and implementing financial reforms towards greater transparency[122].

Mohammed Bin Salman meets Donald Trump[123]

A few weeks later, Hussain Al Nowais resigns from the presidency of his financial group Waha Capital[124] and moves to Nicosia, where he takes Cypriot nationality[125]. ZonesCorp, one of the most sensitive companies he runs on behalf of the Emirates royal family, merges with the agency that controls the port of Dubai and its entire administrative history has been cut off[126]. The holding company, which controls the shares of the Waha group, has relocated to the Netherlands and has become a cooperative, Waha AC Coöperatief UA Amsterdam, which from March 2018 will bring together, one after the other, the companies from the tax havens of the different activities of Al Nowais and its Arab partners[127]. It was not until 2020, after the restructuring, that Mohammed Al Nowais, son of Hussain, returned to the head of Waha Capital[128].

Al Nowais also resigned as chairman of ADCB Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank after ADCB’s Jersey branch was fined £ 475,000 by a London court for neglecting due diligence and helping some customers to use the branch for illegal money laundering[129]. His position within the bank became even more untenable when he was forced to reveal that he had lost $ 1 billion in one of the biggest scams of our century – that of the Indian businessman B.R. Shetty and his group NMC[130]. Finally, for the sake of transparency, all Al Nowais affiliates have publicly declared the nature of their relationship with Abraaj Capital and the extent of the sums lost in this financial disaster[131].

All of this shows the deep contradictions in the economic system of the Gulf States, which has grown rapidly on oil revenues and, now that the fuel age is (just as rapidly) coming to an end, is trapped in a reality where the country’s monarchs and their vassals must find alternative solutions: they must invest in technology, but also in culture, social and financial openness, in image and (ultimately) in transparency and democracy – but they do not don’t know how to do it, they don’t want to do it, they do it try all possible means to avoid it.

If on the one hand they seem to offer moderation, tolerance and more credible control of the economy, on the other hand they invest in violence, in repression, in power intrigues, always on the verge of a military escalation – like the one of Mohammed Bin Salman and Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan wanting a dispute between Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Israel and Egypt on the one hand, and Qatar, Turkey and Iran on the other hand.

What is most worrying from a Western perspective is that the economies of some Persian Gulf countries, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are based primarily on respect for and complicity with organized crime around the world – as well as refusal to comply with international control rules. An even more explosive mixture that could sooner or later lead to an explosion between these states, the European Union and the United States of America.

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[5] ; ;

[6] Matthew T. Page, Jodi Vittori, Shawn Blore, Marcena Hunter, “Dubai’s role in facilitating corruption and global illicit financial flows”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC 2020, pages XI-XII – see also ; ;






[12] Matthew T. Page, Jodi Vittori, Shawn Blore, Marcena Hunter, “Dubai’s role in facilitating corruption and global illicit financial flows”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC 2020 – see also, page XI

[13] Matthew T. Page, Jodi Vittori, Shawn Blore, Marcena Hunter, “Dubai’s role in facilitating corruption and global illicit financial flows”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC 2020 – see also, page XI, pages  59-66

[14] Matthew T. Page, Jodi Vittori, Shawn Blore, Marcena Hunter, “Dubai’s role in facilitating corruption and global illicit financial flows”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC 2020 – see also, page XI, pages 35-48

[15] Originariamente, la Kafala era la legge coranica che regolava l’affidamento dei minori in caso di perdita dei genitori. Nei Paesi del Golfo, nel nuovo secolo, il suo significato è stato esteso alla regolamentazione del diritto del lavoro e delle relazioni d’affari – il termine viene utilizzato anche in relazione alla limitazione degli investimenti diretti esteri e delle attività commerciali. L’applicazione della Kafala affida al datore di lavoro la patria potestà e l’esercizio dei diritti umani dei suoi dipendenti stranieri: questo crea rapporti di dipendenza, abusi e gravi violazioni dei diritti umani – see also ; ; ; ;

[16] Matthew T. Page, Jodi Vittori, Shawn Blore, Marcena Hunter, “Dubai’s role in facilitating corruption and global illicit financial flows”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC 2020 – see also, page XI, pages 79-84







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[27] ;





[32] ;

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[45] Olivier Cousset, Nicolas Moinet, “Extension du domaine de la prédation. La vente d’Alstom à Général Electric”, in “Revue Française de Gestion” No. 285, volume 8, Paris 2019, pages 211-227 – see also, page 14


[47] ; ; 

[48] Sabine Fütterer, „Logik und Problematik der Antikorruption: Deutschland und Italien im Vergleich“, Springer Verlag, Düsseldorf 2018, Seiten 358-360


[50] ;


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[58] ; ;,%2025.7.2006%20_sent._,%20GUP%20Varanelli%20_Confisca_.pdf



[61] ;


[63] Matthew T. Page, Jodi Vittori, Shawn Blore, Marcena Hunter, “Dubai’s role in facilitating corruption and global illicit financial flows”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC 2020, pages 35-47 – see also ; ;


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[119] Theodor Winkler, “The Dark Side of Globalization”. LIT Verlag Münster 2018, page 192;


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IBI World Limited

IBI World Limited

Seit 2004 ist Info Brokers International eine der weitaus vielfältigste Gemeinschaft von unabhängigen Rechercheure aus Italien, Deutschland, Russland und aus der Schweiz. Die leitende Persönlichkeiten kommen aus Jahrzehnten Wirtschaftsjournalismus oder aus der Finanzwelt. Unsere Kunden sind Banken, Industrien, Versicherungsgesellschaften, aber auch staatlichen Behörden und Rechtsanwälte. Wir stellen zur Verfügung ein imposanter Netz von freien MitarbeiterInnen, derer Kompetenz in sämtlichen Räume der Wirtschaft, der Justiz und der Politik reicht. Wir arbeiten vor allem in Europa, in Afrika und in Asien, unser Schwerpunkt liegt in der Untersuchung in den Offshore-Gerichtsbarkeiten.

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