Two months ago, Temasek Holdings joined the Libra Association, the independent, not-for-profit Facebook created to oversee its Libra payment network.
It was added to bring “legitimacy” to the project after Visa, MasterCard, Stripe, PayPal and others backed out.
Temasek is owned by the Singapore government and manages the country’s $313 billion sovereign wealth fund. It invests in hundreds of companies and hedge funds around the world.
One of those is the Troika Russia New Growth Fund, which it started with Russia 15 years ago. It’s sponsored by the Troika Dialog Group (TDG), formerly Russia’s largest private investment bank before it was bought by Sberbank in 2011. The General Partner of the fund is Troika General Partner Ltd, which has been jointly owned by TDG and Temasek since 2003.
“The (Troika) Laundromat allowed Russian oligarchs and politicians to secretly acquire shares in state-owned companies, to buy real estate both in Russia and abroad, to purchase luxury yachts, to hire music superstars for private parties, to pay medical bills, and much more.”
So far, Singapore’s invested more than $17 billion in the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). Last year, it signed the first comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) — Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
Over the last year and a half, it’s also been involved in three major money laundering cases.
In February 2019, its Monetary Authority raided the offices of Wirecard, a German payment processor and financial services provider. Its Asia-Pacific headquarters is in Singapore. Wirecard is currently being investigated for the alleged mismanagement of $2 billion. An international warrant has been issued for its former CEO Jan Marsalek.
In July 2019, Singapore returned $50.3 million to Malaysia after announcing it was part of the 1Malaysia Development (1MDB) funds that were laundered through its banking system. Former Malaysia leader Najib Razak’s trial for money laundering is on hold. Last October, Chinese billionaire Jho Low reached a settlement with the DOJ to return $700 million in assets allegedly stolen from the 1MDB fund. He still faces criminal charges in the Eastern District Court of New York.
Last month, the DOJ released a grand jury subpoena to the former compliance chief of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino. It wants records related to any “money laundering facilitation” that occurred at MBS “through gambling junkets and third-party lending using casino credit.”
MBS is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation (LVS). It opened the $8 billion casino a decade ago. It made more than $3.3 billion last year, making it the second highest-earning LVS casino in 2019. It contributes 1–2% to Singapore’s GDP. Last year, it announced plans for a $3.3 billion expansion.
It sits on the man-made portion of Marina Bay which is adjacent to the central business district and part of Singapore’s new downtown. It’s a 10-minute walk to the financial centre, which is currently ranked the fourth most competitive in the world.
They’re partially surrounded by Singapore’s shipping ports, which saw more than 37.2 million shipping containers last year. It’s part of what’s helped Singapore become the third richest country in the world.
Facebook’s Asia-Pacific headquarters is in Marina Bay. It opened three months after Adelson’s casino. They’re separated by a 12-minute walk.
Facebook and MBS have worked together before, as explained in Facebook’s white paper: “Marina Bay Sands: Increasing resort brand awareness with a bot for Messenger”
In March 2018, Zuckerberg published: “A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking.” In it, he committed to not building data centers in countries with “a track record of violating human rights like privacy or freedom of expression.”
He warned: “If we build data centers and store sensitive data in these countries, rather than just caching non-sensitive data, it could make it easier for those governments to take people’s information.”
Singapore is currently ranked 158 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index for suppressing media freedom.
Of Facebook 2.6 billion total monthly active users, more than 1 billion are in Asia. It made $3.27 billion from its Asia audience last year.
Temasek and Facebook are both invested in Gojek, a motorcycle-hailing and food delivery service that serves 170 million customers in Southeast Asia.
Temasek has also invested with Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s Asian startup fund since 2005. Saverin’s lived in Singapore since 2009. In 2011, he renounced his U.S. citizenship before Facebook’s $96 billion IPO. Singapore has no capital gains tax. He saved at least $700 million.
Four days after the IPO, Russia’s D.S.T. Global sold more than 27 million shares of Facebook for almost $1 billion. The next year, Temasek sold its remaining 4.3 million Facebook shares for $107 million.
Temasek also has an office in Marina Bay. As does Vertex Ventures, its investment arm. Last year, it invested almost $47 billion in North America. Over the last four years, it’s invested around $36 billion in the U.S.
Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook’s former VP of infrastructure and technical operations, helped launch the U.S. affiliate of Vertex Ventures in 2015. He’s now a general partner there.
Two years ago, Vertex worked with Microsoft and two other investment companies to invest in the winners of Innovate.AI, a global AI startup competition.
The winner from Israel that year was Zencity, an online surveillance firm that contracts with cities in Israel, Europe and the U.S. to aggregate the public’s comments on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s AI is used to filter the data and gauge the public’s sentiment on anything from garbage collection to bond referendums.
Temasek is one of 27 members of the Libra Association.
Each of the association’s founding members paid million$ for a vote on the Council and one validator node. The node means it becomes part of a group of private companies who will validate the potential billions of transactions made with Libra.
Facebook will run Libra on the Libra blockchain technology, which is different from the blockchain being used by Bitcoin, for example. Whereas Bitcoin’s blockchain is run by decentralized nodes of computers who maintain the same history of transactions to validate every purchase of its payment system, Libra’s network will also be permissioned off to select entities.
Libra has five directors on its board.
Patrick Ellis, the General Counsel of PayU, is one. PayU is owned by Naspers which is the parent company of Prosus. Prosus is the largest consumer internet company in Europe. It owns 28% of Mail.Ru, the Russian Internet company started and funded by Russian oligarchs Yuri Milner and Alisher Usmanov.
Wences Casares is another board member. He’s the co-founder of Xapo, a Hong Kong-based crypto company that provides a bitcoin wallet, storage and a bitcoin-based debit card.
One of Xapo’s investors is the Fortress Investment Group. It was bought by SoftBank for $3.3 billion in cash two years ago. Fortress was the group that pooled the $130 million mezzanine loan for Trump Tower Chicago. It’s done investments with D.S.T, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Thrive Capital. It’s partnered with the Kushner Companies on multiple NY and NJ real estate deals.
It also runs the Drawbridge Special Opportunities Fund L.P. It owns Penn National Gaming, which operates 43 casinos and racetracks in the U.S. and Canada. It earned $5.3 billion last year. In January, it bought one-third of Barstool Sports, a sports gambling app.
Matthew Davie is the CSO of Kiva and a member of Libra’s board. Kiva has micro-funded millions of dollars to entrepreneurs around the world. In 2013, Strathmore University was its first university partner.
Strathmore was started with the “inspiration and encouragement from Saint Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei.” It was created as “an undertaking of corporate apostolate of Opus Dei.” It became a top private chartered university in Kenya. Kiva ended the relationship last November.
David Marcus is a co-creator of Libra. He’s a former president of PayPal. In 2014, he left there and joined Facebook to oversee the development of the Facebook Messenger mobile app. He helped create its P2P payment platform that was released in 2015. In 2018, he began leading Facebook’s blockchain group. He’s invested in Xapo.
Katie Haun is a Libra board member. She’s also the first female general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. She co-manages a $515 million fund for cryptocurrency and blockchain investments. Marc Andreessen has been on Facebook’s board since 2008.
Haun’s a former federal prosecutor who helped launch the DOJ’s first government task force on crypto. She worked on the federal indictments against Silk Road founder Ross William Ulbricht. She’s also on the board of directors for Coinbase, a digital currency exchange with 30 million members.
“I’ve always tried to have a really nuanced view in the space,” she said. “There’s potential for much greater good to come from cryptocurrency in general — the greater beneficial uses outweigh the bad ones.”
Stuart A. Levey is Libra’s new president.
In June 2004, he was appointed by George W. Bush as the first Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI). It oversees five financial crime divisions, including the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
TFI was created to investigate, enforce and regulate money laundering, terrorism and the international drug cartels. Levey is credited with revolutionizing how private companies and governments worked together to pressure the financiers of these bad actors.
During his time at TFI, the Treasury Dept. investigated HSBC for financing criminals networks.
The bank was found to be laundering more than $881 billion for Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, Colombia’s Norte del Valle cartel, Iran and terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. It also processed another $660 million in U.S. banks for sanctioned entities including Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Libya and Burma.
HSBC Bank USA’s Banknotes business did the wholesale buying and selling of physical currencies for the cartels out of its London, Hong Kong and Singapore centers. Banknotes was the largest volume trader of physical currency in the world and controlled almost 60% of the global market.
Levey left TFI in February 2011. The HSBC investigation was still open. A year after leaving Treasury, he was hired as Chief Legal Officer for HSBC. Six months after that, HSBC agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine and be overseen by an independent monitor for five years. It avoided criminal prosecution by promising to clean up its act. Three years after the settlement, federal prosecutors said the bank was being too slow and still hadn’t implemented the necessary changes.
HSBC recently relocated its Singapore headquarters to become the anchor tenant of Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 2. That means its offices are now a five-minute walk to Mundipharma, which moved to Marina Bay six years ago.
Mundipharma is run by the Sackler Family’s Purdue Pharma. Since 2005, HSBC has loaned the Sackler family more than $30 million.
Over the last decade, OxyContin sales in America have been declining. So in 2011, Purdue Pharma decided to expand internationally. It moved into China first and now has a sales presence in 122 countries.
Mundipharma organizes training seminars for doctors to urge them to overcome ‘opiophobia’ & prescribe painkillers. It sponsors public awareness campaigns that encourage people to take opioids to treat their chronic pain and offers discounts to make those opioids more affordable.
It promotes those events on Facebook.
Criminals have been illegally selling opioids on Facebook for at least a decade. Users have been able to search for opioid pages or groups since Facebook’s inception. It didn’t prohibit those search results until 2018.
That April, Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) told Zuckerberg: “With all due respect, Facebook is actually enabling an illegal activity and, in so doing, you are hurting people. Would you agree with that statement?”
“I think that there are a number of areas of content that we need to do a better job policing on our service,” Zuckerberg replied.
Facebook currently solicits its own pharma ads. It’s estimated there’s at least 30 Facebook employees working with health and pharma clients. Big pharma and health-care brands spent almost a billion dollars on Facebook mobile ads last year.
Mundipharma’s Facebook page currently advertises PurduePharma’s BETADINE® Gargle and Mouthwash. The company claims testing at University of Malaya labs have confirmed it as an effective deterrent against COVID-19.
Tychan, a biotech firm funded by Temasek, conducted its first round of human clinical trials on its antibody treatment for COVID-19 last month.
The launch of the Libra Coin has been delayed and no new launch date has been set. Libra says it plans to strengthen its safeguards on money laundering and terrorist financing before its release.