Monday October 18, 2021

Broadsheet scam: Azmat Commission holds ex-PG NAB, lawyer responsible

April 01, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Justice (R) Azmat Shaikh Commission report on the Broadsheet affair has spared the generals who headed the NAB at the time but holds a former prosecutor general and a lawyer responsible for the scam. The commission also seeks a ‘fact-based’ prosecution of Asif Ali Zardari in the SGS-Cotecna and ARY cases at the appeal stage.

Informed sources say that the commission was dismayed over how these cases were decided by the Accountability Court in favour of Zardari. It was because of the ‘missing’ record, which the commission insists is not missing. Therefore, this point must be pressed in the appeal stage of the case by NAB to get the trial court verdict reversed.

These sources say that the commission found that the agreement signed with companies like Broadsheet LLC and International Asset Recovery (IAR) in the year 2000 were faulty. It agreed that instead of serving the interest of the Government of Pakistan, these agreements benefitted the foreign companies. Pakistan’s interest was not safeguarded, the Commission states.

The Commission notes that these agreements with foreign firms were signed in violation of the rules of business and without consulting the law ministry and the attorney general’s office. Although Lt Gen (R) Amjad was NAB chairman at that time, the Commission holds that the then Prosecutor General Farooq Adam is responsible for entering into these controversial agreements with Broadsheet and IAR. The sources say that Gen Amjad has been spared because he had asked the then Prosecutor General, who was the top legal mind in the Bureau at that time, to finalise the deal with the foreign companies. These sources also reveal that the Commission also found that Farooq Adam had been associated with Broadsheet in the past.

Regarding the cancellation of the contracts with Broadsheet and IAR in 2003, when NAB was headed by Lt Gen (R) Munir Hafeez, the Azmat Commission concludes, according to sources, that there was no illegality or any wrongdoing involved in the 2003 decision. Instead, Gen Hafeez acted as per the law and in line with the rules of business.

Since the performance of Broadsheet LLC and IAR were not satisfactory despite the lapse of three years, NAB had decided to terminate the contract on October 28, 2003 through its United Kingdom-based lawyers, Kendal Freeman.

The Commission also discussed how, and on whose recommendation and approval, US$ 1.5million was paid in 2007-08 to a person who later turned out to be a fake representative of Broadsheet LLC. In this case, according to the sources, the Commission talks about the role of Ahmer Bilal Soofi, who had held the settlement negotiations with Broadsheet LLC (Colorado), owned by Jerry James. The Settlement Agreement was drawn between NAB and Broadsheet LLC, which was drafted by Ahmer Bilal Soofi.

It is said that at that time, NAB neither had its chairman nor the prosecutor general. Following approval by the then prime minister, the Settlement Agreements with Broadsheet LLC -- which was not the original firm-- and IAR were executed on May 20, 2008 and on January 2, 2008 respectively, which were signed by the representative of the Government of Pakistan and Jerry James.

On the basis of these agreements, NAB had paid US$ 1.5 million to Jerry James and US$ 2.2 million to IAR with the approval of the prime minister. Later it became clear that Jerry James did not belong to the original Broadsheet which had signed the agreement with NAB in 2000.

Regarding the damages recently paid by the Government of Pakistan to Broadsheet, the Commission does not find anything wrong on the part of the present government but did mention that the case was not pursued properly in the UK courts during 2011 and 2017. According to one source, NAB was primarily responsible for the weak prosecution.

Meanwhile, on the closure of the Swiss cases, according to the sources, the Azmat Commission held the then PPP government responsible. Against the directive of the Supreme Court to write to the Swiss authorities for the re-opening of the Swiss cases against Asif Ali Zardari and others, the then PPP government had acted otherwise following which Yusuf Raza Gilani was convicted of contempt of court and was removed from the office of prime minister.

The Swiss cases mainly include SGS-Cotecna and the ARY Gold references, which were also being tried in the Islamabad accountability courts. These accountability courts later acquitted Zardari in these cases because the original record was ‘missing’.

The Commission notes that the original record was not actually missing and is still available -- but it was not presented before the trial court. The Commission, the sources say, recommends that since NAB has challenged the trial court’s decision in the appeal stage, it should produce the original record to get the trial court verdict reversed.