Monday October 18, 2021

Broadsheet Commission identifies persons for paying $1.5m to wrong firms

Islamabad : The Broadsheet Commission, headed by Justice (retd) Azmat Saeed Sheikh, has identified around a dozen officials/ persons for making apparently wrong payments of US$1.5 million to the wrong persons/ firms in 2008, which were otherwise not entitled to receive such payment from the Government of Pakistan. In its over 450-page-long report, the commission named these persons who were lynchpin of the settlement agreement.

Role of lawyers Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a NAB representative in Pakistan, to discuss the deal with Broadsheet LLC (Isle of Man) and Ahmed Tariq Rahim, local counsel for the International Assets Recovery (IAR), LLC, has also been discussed in the commission report, exclusively made available with Geo News.

The issue of payments to these two firms popped up when the NAB Chairman Lt General Munir Hafiez terminated the Assets Recovery Agreements with both firms in October 2003. In 2000, Chairman NAB Lt. General (retd) Syed Amjad signed agreements with both firms where the commission stated the-then Prosecutor General Farook Adam had little understanding of such international agreements.

The-then prime minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz, NAB chairman Nawid Ahsan and law minister granted principal approval for financial settlement with Broadsheet LLC (Isle of Man) in May 2007. It was decided that IAR LLC would be given US$2.2 million and Broadsheet LLC would be paid US$1.5 million as a full and final settlement with no future liability.

The commission in its lengthy report stated that "how can we forget that it was Mr. Soofi who communicated to NAB the routing number and the ban details for the wire transfer, without the title of the account -- it would have been too obvious to ignore that the payment was being made in violation of the sanction and approval of Pakistan PM."

Soofi, however, stated that "as an outside counsel to NAB, I have had restricted mandate in writing to only negotiate the amount between the two parties. Drafting of agreement was at the request of NAB to facilitate the meeting so that a draft-agreement could be sent to London High Commission which was supposed to be revised and amended based on the authorization document that Gerry James had assured to bring. I was kept out of the said meeting held in London in 2008. Neither the said agreement was shown to me by any party later. I received no instructions for due diligence of Gerry James' companies winding-up."

The commission also pointed out the role of Hassan Saqib Sheikh of NAB, who was serving as Desk Officer of Broadsheet LLC (Isle of Man) for NAB. "Hassan Saqib appears to have allowed, permitted and connived with Mr. Soofi," stated the report.

The conduct of Abdul Basit, a seasoned diplomat, was very disappointing, stated the commission its report which reveals "he [Basit] made diplomatic history by signing and executing a document with obvious financial implications in blank." His response was awaited till the filing of this report.

Role of Ghulam Rasool, the-then joint secretary Ministry of Law, showed culpable negligence while vetting the agreement as his endeavors were limited to effecting grammatical changes of the most pedestrian nature without addressing any of the host of obvious legal infirmities floating on the surface, including the blanks with regards to the legal entity in whose favour the agreement was to be executed.

The commission also named Shahid Ali Baig, the then director Pakistan's High Commission, London, who according to report issued a cheque in favour of irrelevant firm Broadsheet LLC. Colorado with having instructions from back home. Shady role of Tariq Fawad Malik and Jerry James were also discussed in detail where the commission recommended actions against them.

Role of Kaleem Khan, judge of ATC Sahiwal, has been discussed in the report where he confirmed after examining the so-called vetted settlement agreement that the grammatical modifications therein were not in his hand. This undue haste was perhaps to avoid any awkward questions from a trained judicial officer, read the report.

The commission also pinpointed the role of Lt. Col (retd) Shehzad Anwar Bhatti, who admitted that "no instruction in writing had been issued to High Commission in the UK that any payment should made to Broadsheet LLC. Gibraltar or Broadsheet LLC. Colorado. This entire saga has an interesting twist which needs to be highlighted at this stage," read the commission report.

The commission also stated that the aspect of mission records of Swiss cases cannot be ignored and appropriate action needs to be taken by the government of Pakistan. The controversial role of then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Attorney General of Pakistan Malik Qayyum who, according to report, were creating a stumbling block in sending an official request to Swiss authorities for re-opening of cases against the PPP top leadership.

The commission recorded the statement of Director General Operations NAB Zahir Shah, Secretary Law Raja Naeem and Secretary Finance Karman Ali Afzal who admitted the required official record was not available; either stolen by someone or it was missing. Zahir Shah, however, produced the required documents and briefed the commission over the agreements.