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January 25, 2021

From 2003 to 2009…: Pakistan committed Rs5.6b to 5 int’l law firms to trace hidden assets

Top Story

January 25, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan pledged to pay Rs5.6 billion to five international law firms from 2003 to 2009 to dig out the looted money allegedly stashed by Pakistani nationals — especially Asif Zardari, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif — into their accounts abroad, informed officials told Geo News Sunday.

The disclosure comes at a time when the federal government has formed a judicial commission to probe a NAB-Broadsheet deal. Background meetings with officials, some of them are no longer part of NAB presently, and official record seen by Geo News revealed that the top management of NAB engaged M/s Kendall Freeman on fee of £1,266,066.13 (current Rs278.2 million), M/s Baker Associates, £201,919.08 (current Rs44.3 million) and £22,704,509.64 (current Rs4.9 billion), M/s Python and Peter Sheferly $1,908,982 (current Rs306.3 million), M/s J Olleros €53,001.50 4 (current Rs10.3 million), €122,353.74 (current Rs. 23.9 million) and M/s Lalive for an amount of $42,291 (current Rs.6.7 million) from 2003 to 2009.

NAB hired the services of Kendall Freeman for Pakistan versus Benazir Bhutto, according to official record, revealing that The Baker Associates was engaged to probe the hidden assets of Pakistanis in the Channel Island, Designated Territories. NAB also engaged Python and Peter, Swiss, M/s J Olleros, Spanish and M/s Lalive whose record was put secret. Officials told Geo News that three chairmen NAB Lt. General (retd) Munir Hafeez, Shahid Aziz and Nawid Ahsan had engaged these firms from time to time.

The anti-graft, according to officials, collectively paid around Rs350m to around 125 law firms (international and local), advisers, consultants and legal experts between 2003 and 2009. *It includes more than Rs50m spent on 120 legal consultants/advisers in Pakistan for contesting thousands of cases in trial courts between 2006 and 2009, according to the official record.* NAB officials, however, were not sure whether the whole pledged amounts were paid to these firms or only partial payments were made.

Informed officials said NAB’s top management made payments to foreign law firms through the Ehtesab Cell’s United National Bank London account (0001-021441-001) and the Union Bank of Switzerland (account # 235.412500.61 K UBS), in Berne, Switzerland.

Officials told Geo News that the-then chairman NAB, Nawid Ahsan, under the Finance Division’s letter U.O. No.322-DFA (Cab)/AO/2007, was given power to make payments on account of law charges to these firms and legal advisers. Chairman NAB under a letter of Finance Division UO No 322-DFA (Cab)/AO/2000 dated 10-7-2000 was also delegated power to make payments on account of law charges.

These international law firms were paid from regular budget under the head A-03917-Law charges, officials said. They were engaged in contesting various cases, including a high-profile money laundering case in Switzerland, receiving some Rs300m during the aforesaid period. They further revealed that NAB spent some Rs25m on local law firms in addition to the hefty fees to foreign law firms for exclusively pursuing a case in Swiss courts during this period.

These foreign law firms were representing Pakistan in foreign jurisdictions/courts. Officials said that the-then chairman NAB Lt Gen Munir Hafeez (retd) through a letter no 38/2003 by Law Division engaged consultants/advisers/experts and fixed their compensation under Section 28 (f) and was not bound by instructions of the Establishment Division regarding employment of consultants. Hassan Waseem Afzal, the-then director general operation overseas (NAB), was engaged to deal with the Swiss cases against Zardari and others.

Informed officials also revealed that the NAB, on the request of the Ministry of Finance under constitutional clause 160, conducted an internal investigation to probe how law firms and lawyers were hired in violation of set rules in 2009-10.

The findings of this probe pointed out how management paid Rs53m to legal consultants hired on contracts out of head A-03917-Law Charges during 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Among local legal consultants/advisers and NAB ex-officials who incurred legal fees from NAB to pursue high profile cases here and abroad from 2003 to 2009 were Baseer Qureshi, ex-senior prosecutor Rs9.6m, Malik Afzal, ex-deputy prosecutor-general Rs4.5m, Mirza Shehzad Akbar, ex-legal adviser NAB Rs4.8m, Asghar Rana, ex-Add Prosecutor General Rs3.2m, Ms Madina Khan, ex-legal consultant Rs3m, Ahmed Hayat Lak, ex-legal consultant Rs3m, Ahmer Bilal Soofi, ex-legal consultant Rs1.8m, Fakhar Hayat, ex-legal consultant Rs2.6m, Naveed Saeed Khan, ex-legal consultant Rs2.4m, Bilal Saeed, ex-legal consultant Rs2.4m, Jamshed Ahmed Hamid, ex-legal consultant Rs2.4m, Lt-Col (retd) Iqbal Hashmi, ex-legal consultant Rs2.4m, Ghazanfar Abbas Sandeela, ex-legal consultant Rs2.6m, Umar Farooq, ex-legal consultant Rs.2.6m, Imtiazullah Khan Shinwari, ex-legal consultant Rs2.6m, Barrister Ibrahim Shahid, ex-assistant prosecutor, received Rs1.6m and this list of consultants and firms who got fees from NAB went on during that period.

Guidelines for appointing consultants were issued by the Establishment Division’s MS Wing under letter number UO No.11-3/2001-MSW-III on Jan 25, 2002. The division finally approved the hiring of these consultants.

Informed officials of NAB told Geo News that the Auditor General of Pakistan also sought record and copies of contracts with these law firms and consultants but auditors were said to be not given this record in 2010. A special audit team of AGP was conducting a special audit of NAB on this specific matter at that time.

Geo News sought comments from NAB spokesperson on this matter. His comments, however, were awaited till the filing of this story.