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January 21, 2021

Dirty business

Opinion

January 21, 2021

It was early November morning when Kaveh Moussavi met with three unidentified men in the Nikko Hotel lobby. The discussions centered on valuable procurement contracts. According to Moussavi, these men were government officials and were demanding $1 million for the award of the contracts.

No, this is not Broadsheet and the meeting had nothing to do with Pakistan. This was Mexico in 1992, when Moussavi was acting as an agent for IBM and working on a 6.5 percent commission to help procure valuable radar and air navigation equipment contracts tendered by the Mexican government. Moussavi later broke the story to the Financial Times of how dirty officials in Mexico were fixing government contracts for bribes.

Now, almost three decades later, Moussavi’s interview with a YouTube journalist has created new scandals in Pakistan. Moussavi claims to have traced a one-billion dollar account and dirty money moving from Saudi Arabia to Singapore in 2018. He claims an alleged Nawaz Sharif relative tried to bribe him with $25 million. He also claims that an alleged Pakistani government official wanted bribes to facilitate the new contract he [Moussavi] was negotiating with the PTI government for tracing of illegal foreign assets.

Moussavi’s allegations have forced the government to make the Broadsheet Arbitration Award public. An award, in contrast to a judgment given by a judge in court, is a decision of a private arbitrator mostly entrusted to decide business disputes. When initially probed on why Moussavi wasn’t making the Award public, he claimed he was bound by confidentiality. However, no confidentiality clause has been revealed in any of the arbitration/court documents thus far made public.

Most analysts find it mind-boggling that NAB officers of high integrity and competence hired Broadsheet LLC with no due diligence, and failed to notice that Broadsheet LLC was only incorporated a few months earlier with a capital of $200 only. NAB’s first Chairman, General Amjad testified in the arbitration proceedings that Broadsheet was the nominee of another company Trouvons LLC and “he was satisfied with the result of his trip [to Trouvons offices in Colorado], and that he thought the representatives of Trouvons whom he had met appeared to have the necessary capability to help the NAB with its mission.” It seems Gen Amjad did not even care to see that Trouvons was only incorporated in May 2000 by a lawyer Ronald Rudman who was debarred for dishonesty in the US.

The Asset Recovery Agreement was signed in NAB’s office in Islamabad by General Amjad on behalf of the government. The witness to the Agreement on behalf of NAB was Mr Farouq Adam, the then prosecutor general of NAB, who later on joined Broadsheet as a consultant and even filed a witness statement in support of Broadsheet’s claims in the arbitration. So much for conflict of interest.

The NAB Broadsheet Agreement didn’t get very far and on October 28, 2003, NAB issued the termination notice through its lawyers in the UK. Although Moussavi initiated the 2009 Broadsheet arbitration case against NAB and the government of Pakistan, he had no apparent nexus with the infamous Asset Recovery Agreement of 2000. In fact, when NAB issued the termination notice in October, 2003 to Broadsheet, Moussavi was in the midst of his own legal troubles.

According to UK court documents, Vitol, an oil trading company had entered into a joint venture with Moussavi who is described as an “Iranian resident in England, who claimed to have powerful contacts in Iran able to facilitate the transit of oil.” Vitol charged Moussavi with misappropriation of oil proceeds. After being subject to a worldwide freezing order and search order, which he failed to comply with, Moussavi was committed to prison for 12 months for contempt in May 2002. Moussavi was declared bankrupt in his own petition in the UK.

Moussavi’s connection to another company, International Asset Recovery (“IAR”), which had a NAB contract is also sketchy. He is said to have funded IAR and negotiated with NAB’s lawyer on a $2.25 million settlement in 2008 on behalf of IAR. Why NAB paid this money is a mystery in itself. But by this time, Broadsheet was in dire straits and subject to a dissolution order due to unpaid debt. Realizing this, Jerry James who had been dealing with NAB since 2000 and was the ostensible chairman of the company, duped NAB into paying him $1.5 million by incorporating another company with the name Broadsheet in the US. It is beyond comprehension that NAB did not even check that its agreement was with Broadsheet LLC a company incorporated in the Isle of Man and simply wrote out a cheque of $1.5 million to a US company of the same name as part of the settlement.

Moussavi was conveniently told about the $1.5 million Broadsheet settlement with Jerry James by NAB’s own lawyer who negotiated that IAR $2.25 million settlement. This information was Moussavi’s lottery ticket. Moussavi rushed to the Isle of Man, found another creditor of the original Broadsheet LLC and simply got the dissolution order reversed and appointed a liquidator of his choice. In other words, Moussavi brought the original Broadsheet LLC back to life to sue NAB in arbitration.

In the last three decades, the only notable international asset recovery has come from late Admiral Mansurul Haque in the sum of approximately $7 million. It is remarkable that Moussavi who claims that he is only a virtuous anti-bribery campaigner, but had no connection with the Asset Recovery Agreement with Broadsheet LLC, ended up collecting $28.7 million from the taxpayers of Pakistan.

After the meeting in the Nikko Hotel lobby, Moussavi went up to his room and called his IBM counterparts to tell them of the bribe demand by Mexican officials and his ultimate refusal. The enigmatic Moussavi has been cited by some as a whistleblower against international corruption. But the two IBM officers who Moussavi called from his Nikko Hotel room to relay the bribe demand had their own version. The IBM officers alleged “…[Moussavi] would not take no for an answer. He repeated what he claimed were requests by these unidentified Mexicans…. you increase my commission and I will take care of it.”

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.

Twitter: @zfebrahim