Sunday October 17, 2021

Broadsheet Commission says Swiss record in govt possession: ‘Govt may go for probe’

The commission constituted to investigate the Broadsheet scandal Thursday released its findings, with a key takeaway being that all institutions except for NAB were found to have resisted cooperating with the investigation.

ISLAMABAD: The commission constituted to investigate the Broadsheet scandal Thursday released its findings, with a key takeaway being that all institutions except for NAB were found to have resisted cooperating with the investigation.

Headed by Justice (retired) Sheikh Azmat Saeed, the commission has also stated in its report that Broadsheet's records were missing from "nearly everywhere", including the Pakistan mission in London.

Additionally, the report states that the chairman of the commission (Justice Saeed) did not think it necessary to record Tariq Fawad Malik and Broadsheet CEO Kaveh Moussavi's statements.

According to the report, the asset recovery deal made with Broadsheet makes evident the government institutions' failure to comprehend international laws. It said the bureaucracy made every attempt to "hide records or make them disappear", in moves that were in many instances "transcontinental".

The report states that Moussavi, who is a convicted felon, levelled allegations against certain individuals but probing this matter did not fall under the terms of reference defined for the commission.

It added that the government may probe the Broadsheet CEO's allegations if it wishes to. According to the report, a settlement deal was made with Broadsheet to pay it $2.2 million.

What the government officials involved in making the settlement deal were unaware of at the time, was that there are two firms — based in Gibraltar and Colorado — that have no link with the real Broadsheet, based in the Isle of Man, UK, and with whom settlement deals were inked.

International law expert and former federal law minister Ahmer Bilal Soofi had contacted Jerry James, who was erroneously believed to be the Broadsheet chairman, when in fact he was associated with the Colorado firm.

It notes that $1.8 million in two instalments were paid in May 2008 to James in the presence of Abdul Basit who was Pakistan's envoy in London at the time. Shahid Baig, an officer of the Pakistan High Commission, had signed both cheques for payment.

Baig, in his statement to the commission stated that no approval from the Pakistan government was sought for payment made to Broadsheet (Colorado). Meanwhile, Secretary Law Raja Naeem told the commission that all settlement records had been stolen from the ministry.

Then NAB chairman Naveed Ahsan was also involved in making the settlement deal. Ahsan, in his statement to the commission, said that Soofi had not disclosed any information regarding the deal made with James.

Furthermore, then NAB officer Hassan Saqib Sheikh was also involved in the deal. The first settlement deal was made with Broadsheet (Gibraltar) whereas Pakistan had never approached such a company, the report states.

The commission also raised several questions regarding the role of judge Kaleem Khan, who was attached to the ministry of law at the time. The report notes that the prime minister at the time, Shaukat Aziz, had given approval for this settlement with Broadsheet. A cabinet summary with the approval dated May 10, 2007 has been reference by the report.

No officer, whether from the law ministry, the Pakistan High Commission in London or the Foreign Office, the Ministry for Finance or NAB even had the remotest idea that Pakistan is being cheated.

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference here after attending the federal cabinet meeting, Fawad said the cabinet had also released the Broadsheet Commission report and directed immediate initiation of criminal proceedings against Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Hassan Saqib Sheikh, currently in FBR, Ghulam Rasool, who was the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Law, Abdul Basit, former Deputy High Commissioner to the UK, Shahid Ali Baig, then the Director of Audit and Accounts at the London Embassy, and Tariq Fawad Malik, who was instrumental in signing the contract.

The minister noted that the commission had raised a very important point and termed the period between 2011-17 the darkest era of the NAB when Qamar Zaman was its chairman, while there were prosecutor generals and others.

It was because of their criminal negligence that the Swiss accounts and other documents went missing and no one had any clue about them. As per the commission’s recommendation, he said criminal liability against Qamar Zaman and others on high positions in NAB would be determined.

“Asif Zardari and other PPP leaders were set free and it was said that this was done, as the NAB was not in possession of original record of Swiss accounts, which was a complete lie,” Fawad said.

“We are grateful to the commission that it discovered the original record, which is now in the government possession and on its basis, the Swiss accounts against Zardari can be opened for which our legal team is holding deliberations,” the minister maintained.

Likewise, he continued since concealment of evidence or destroying it was a criminal offence, for due action, the process was being streamlined against the then DG NAB, prosecutor general and others.