Kuwait reiterates request to Dubai to release $496 million frozen funds

DUBAI (Reuters) - Kuwait reiterated its request to Dubai to release $496 million in frozen funds held for over a year and belonging to Port Fund, part of a Kuwaiti private equity, Port Fund said on Sunday.

The funds are at the heart of a money-laundering probe which is straining relations between the two Gulf allies.

The $496 million have been frozen at Dubai’s state-owned Noor Bank since late 2017, when the emirate’s public prosecutor, in collaboration with Kuwaiti prosecutors, started probing the lawfulness of their transfer to Dubai from the Philippines.

Kuwait’s Attorney General asked his counterpart in Dubai to help release the funds in October, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

Port Fund said in a statement on Sunday that Kuwait’s Attorney General reiterated, in a letter dated December 30, his request to his counterpart in Dubai “to remove the hold [on the funds].. and enable the account holder company to transfer and distribute the mentioned amount.”

Kuwaiti prosecutors have charged two Port Fund directors with embezzling funds that the Kuwait Port Authority and the Public Institution for Social Security had invested in Port Fund. The executives deny this.

A spokeswoman for the Dubai government said last month that judicial authorities in the United Arab Emirates were awaiting a final judgment from Kuwaiti courts on the funds to transfer them back to Kuwait “based on international standard laws and procedures”.

Reporting by Tuqa Khalid and Ahmed Hagagy, editing by Davide Barbuscia and Angus MacSwan