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January 20, 2021

ToRs for Inquiry Committee ignore ‘cuts’ allegation against PTI govt official

Top Story

January 20, 2021

CEO Broadsheet Kaveh Moussavi.

ISLAMABAD: A three-member ministerial committee, headed by the information minister, has recommended to the prime minister the setting up of an inquiry committee under a retired superior court judge to probe all aspects of the Broadsheet scam. However, the committee’s probe seems to steer clear from investigating what happened in 2019 under the PTI government.

One significant omission in the Terms of Reference (ToRs) suggested by the ministerial committee is the proposed 2019 deal between the PTI government and Broadsheet that had fallen through over the issue of ‘cuts’ allegedly being demanded by a senior Pakistani official.

Documents containing text message exchanges and meeting details unearthed by The News recently reveal that the PTI government was attempting to engage Broadsheet to recover $1 billion allegedly parked in a Singapore bank account by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The deal, however, fell through when Broadsheet resisted demands of ‘cuts’ by a Pakistani official.

“At a meeting in London’s Café Rouge, this official advised Moussavi against wasting his time by pursuing the agreement (via the lawyer) ‘because others in the Pakistani government were now managing the case.’ He categorically told Moussavi that he could get agreements signed and enforced ‘but only if his cut was guaranteed’,” The News report published earlier read.

Moussavi was also asked if he would be interested in helping Pakistan determine who in the government had “solicited bribes regarding the two unrelated ICSID arbitrations awards” and that any information related to this would provide Pakistan leverage to settle those arbitrations and Moussavi would be paid a “substantial reward in the case.”

Moussavi confirmed that this senior government official met him on October 13, 2019 in London. He said he believed the official was genuine because he was carrying the same draft agreement that his lawyers had sent to the Government of Pakistan and only someone in a position of trust could have access to it.

“After hearing him out, Moussavi stated clearly that the conversation he was pursuing was nothing less than a criminal conspiracy to bribe Pakistani officials and that neither he nor Broadsheet could even discuss the matter further under any circumstances, no matter how much money was being offered. The meeting ended abruptly and Moussavi has not spoken to [that official] since,” the reported quoted the document.

Interestingly, except for when the Broadsheet sheet scam deals with matters relating to the present government, the ToRs cover all possible aspects of the matter from the year 2000, when NAB engaged Broadsheet, Trouvon LLC and International Asset Recovery Limited (IAR).

“The Inquiry Committee will examine and fix responsibility on all involved and consequential beneficiaries in the following five parts: a) The selection and appointment of Trouvon LLC, Broadsheet and IAR and signing of the agreement in June 2000 between the GOP and these companies; b) The circumstances relating to the cancellation of the contract with Broadsheet and IAR in Oct 2003; c) The settlement with IAR in January 2008 and the purported settlement in May 2008 with Broadsheet; d) The manner in which the GOP arbitrated the proceedings before the London Court of International Arbitration and litigated the appeal in the High Court of Justice in London; e) The process of making the payment to the Claimant and protecting the GOP’s assets in the UK at enforcement stage of the Award.” In its explanation, the ToRs in regard to point (e) read: “When did the award become final and binding? Whether the process of making the payment could have been expedited?”

It is not clear if this point will cover the November 2020 decision of the PTI government taken by the ECC and the cabinet, following a summary moved by NAB, for allocation of a supplementary budget worth Rs 433 million for part final payment to Broadsheet. According to a source, if there has been a delay and the award payment could have been expedited, the delayed period will include the two-and-a-half-year tenure of the Imran Khan government.