Vous êtes ici
King Abdullah’s Billions and the Secret Swiss Bank Account
It all started with a sheet of paper referring to an astronomical sum : a photocopy of a $5.5-billion transfer into a mysterious bank account – which is believed to be open to this day – in the name of Three Stars, and registered with the UBS office on Rhone Street in Geneva. The transaction, dated July 28, 1997, is signed by no less than the private cabinet of Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the man who has since become the all-powerful King of Saudi Arabia. The money came from an account at the Riyad Bank reserved for high-ranking members of the Saudi nobility. Although the statement is a duplicate, as a document, it is anything but worthless. Thanks to it, Bakchich has managed to lift a corner of the veil that hides some of the most obscure financial practices on the planet : those that rely on the manna of Saudi oil. For the public accounting of this monarchic regime represents only an infinitesimal fraction of the Saudi Royal Family’s financial commitments.
Let us explain : In 2007, for example, the Kingdom’s official budgetary revenue was in the neighborhood of $194 billion – essentially duties from oil sales. Yet these assets, which are supposed to be destined for running the Kingdom, don’t include the amounts discreetly skimmed off a quota of barrels of crude sold for the exclusive benefit of the Palace. A hidden tax levied on national reserves, calculated and pocketed in a discretionary manner. Only those with Saudi royal blood flowing in their veins are aware of the details. What happens to those tens of billions of dollars remains one of the best-kept secrets in the Middle East. Until now, no information was available that could allow analysis of the strategic positions taken by the al-Sauds in the international economy thanks to these staggering sums.
Run by a Swiss bank
Revealing the existence of this dandy little bank account in the name of Three Stars allows us to shed light into these shadows for the first time. In reality, two companies manage the Swiss account : Rolcan Finance Ltd and Akar Verwaltungs A.G. Two structures run by the same man, an investment banker well-known in Geneva’s financial circles : Roland Kaufmann. None other than the Saudi sovereign’s personal Swiss banker. According to a four-page agreement – also dating from July 1997 and signed by Abdallah bin Abdelaziz al-Saud’s hand – that Bakchich managed to obtain a copy of, Three Stars is defined as a private investment fund, whose purpose is to take strategic positions on the international marketplace… in the name of its figurehead beneficiaries, Akar Verwaltungs and Rolcan Finance, and never for the Saudi Royal Family. At least not on paper.
Rolcan Finance has representatives’ offices at its disposal in New York, and it accompanies investment in extremely varied sectors, functioning like any ordinary private investor. Yet it is in fact from Geneva and Zurich that the two structures define their strategy, consulting with their Saudi principals, particularly in terms of which industrial sectors to target for investment. As for administrative issues, the 1997 agreement stipulates that a third entity, established in Lichtenstein this time, will coordinate and supervise financial transactions performed in this context. Preferact Ltd, headquartered at N°. 2 Meierhofstrasse in Vaduz, has also been placed in Roland Kaufmann’s hands (see our document).
Ambassador of the kingdom
Other archives that we managed to obtain access to show that the Three Star account was provisioned regularly over the years. Here another $7.5 billion transfer, sent to UBS ; there a $10-billion transfer into account n° 182-259-71, in the name of Preferact Ltd, at the Liechtenstein Landesbank. From that point, Roland Kaufmann was responsible for transferring the funds between the different trustees, according to the opportunities of the moment. The $10-billion transfer (equivalent to half of Saudi Arabia’s entire national education budget for 2006) came from a special reserve account of King Abdullah’s, at the Islamic Bank of Jeddah, identified as ABAAAS-1CPRKSA-0011-77-00.
Overall, the results Kaufmann obtained seem to have pleased his royal clientele. To the extent that the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Bern arranged to have the Swiss citizen elevated to the rank of Ambassador of the Kingdom. Since then, he has branched into diplomatic banking activities that have placed him in the midst of much more political affairs. An exchange of letters with the Liberian Minister of Mines and Energy shows that Roland Kaufmann participated in negotiations to provide “Islamic assistance” to that country’s Muslim communities. Bakchich requested comment from Roland Kaufmann, to no avail.
Translated by : Regan Kramer.