Thursday June 08, 2023

PTI foreign funding: Millions of dollars transactions not shared with ECP

PTI received $29,800 donations in 2013 from an Indian national businesswoman and her Pakistani American husband, record shows

February 28, 2022
The SBP documents reveal that millions of dollars transactions from 14 different countries were kept secret. -The News/File
The SBP documents reveal that millions of dollars transactions from 14 different countries were kept secret. -The News/File

ISLAMABAD: The State Bank of Pakistan's documents handed over to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the PTI foreign funding case show that information about transactions worth more than two million dollars from 14 different foreign countries and hundreds of millions rupees’ local transactions into the party's bank accounts was not provided to the ECP authorities.

The documents, a copy of which is available with The News, also show that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) received $29,800 donations in 2013 from an Indian national business woman and her Pakistani American husband, who also own a company registered in Mumbai, India. But their donation was also concealed from the ECP.

The Political Parties Order 2002 prohibits the parties from receiving any donations from foreign nationals. The ECP handed over the scrutiny committee report to the complainant Akbar S. Babar on January 4, 2022. However, critical portions of the report were kept secret, particularly all the documents and PTI bank statements acquired through the State Bank of Pakistan, which were later shared with him.

The documents requisitioned through the State Bank of Pakistan by the ECP through its letter dated 3rd July 2018 included; "(1) list of all bank accounts maintained by PTI anywhere in Pakistan from 2009 to 2013, with date-wise details of transactions, (2) Country-wise list of all fund transfers to the PTI accounts from abroad during 2009 to 2013 separately for each financial year, including names/particulars of remitters, and (3) monthly bank statements of all the accounts maintained /operated by PTI in Pakistan and abroad for each financial year i.e. 2009 to 2013."

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The SBP documents reveal that millions of dollars transactions from 14 different countries, including Denmark, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Norway and the UAE, were kept secret. Apart from this, the information about hundreds of millions of rupees local transactions was also not provided to ECP authorities.

The facts include concealment of dozens of bank accounts maintained in Pakistan and abroad. From fiscal years 2008-12, the party under the signatures of PTI Chairman Imran Khan only revealed two accounts for each year and for the year 2013 revealed four PTI bank accounts before the ECP. Whereas, the record from the State Bank of Pakistan reveals that the PTI concealed five accounts in 2008, seven in 2009, thirteen in 2010, fourteen in 2011, and fourteen in 2012-13. The information about all PTI international bank accounts were not provided despite repeated orders of the ECP and the scrutiny committee, including six international accounts identified by the petitioner and conceded by the party.

The documents further show that apart from the above list, bank statements of another PTI account in the defunct KASB Bank Account (01135461001), revealed in PTI Audit Report 2013 submitted before the ECP, were also kept secret. Neither the PTI has submitted its bank statements nor has the Scrutiny Committee shared it with the complainant as part of the State Bank record. A sum of Rs598.89 million were transferred to the bank account in KASB Bank Limited, Gulberg Branch, Lahore, from other PTI accounts revealed.

The scrutiny committee in its order dated April 215, 2018 had directed the PTI to submit all bank statements of its accounts related to "Disaster Fund, Party’s Fund etc," but information about these accounts has still not been shared. An amount of PKR103,121,000 was transferred to these undisclosed bank accounts from the accounts requisitioned through the State Bank of Pakistan.

According to the complainant Akbar S Babar, the PTI has also not shared a single bank statement from several of its bank accounts maintained abroad even those identified and acknowledged by the PTI, which include; Bank of America Accounts maintained by PTI in U.S.A. for PTI NA LLC No. 5975 and 6160: (488037228011, 488028507602, and 488037228024), PTI Canada-CIBC Bank Account No. 228428706, PTI Australia-Insaf Australia Incorporated (Australian Business Number 45838549859) from the ANZ (Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited) bank account number 00102012397479527102, PTI UK Lloyds Bank (Sort Code 30-92-90), Account Number 00191424 and Account Number 26675768.

Sources confide that the documents requisitioned through the State Bank of Pakistan reveal that the PTI also did not share with the ECP details about donations received from 14 countries that included USD2,121,500 or over two million US dollars from an offshore company registered in Cayman Islands (Wootton Cricket Limited) and USD49,965 from Bristol Engineering Services from the UAE.

Nasser Aziz Ahmad — a Pakistani American and his Indian origin American wife as per the SBP released documents contributed $27,500 to PTI. On April 24, 2013 the couple donated $25,000 to party funds and then again on April 30, 2013 they gave another $2,500 dollars to the PTI. The documents further reveal that the party received another amount of $2,300 through PTI UBL Account FRA 29 from the couple. The bank documents clearly show that both Nasser and his wife Romita Shetty contributed $29,800 to PTI. However, it was concealed by the party and not shared with the ECP.

The Clause 6 (3) of Political Parties Order 2002 prohibits the parties from receiving any donations from any foreign national. "Any contribution made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign government, multi-national or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association shall be prohibited and the parties may accept contributions and donations only from individuals."

Nasser is a co-founder of DA Capital, an asset management firm in New York. Prior to co-founding DA Capital, Nasser served in senior positions of different hedge funds and financial institutions like Credit Suisse. Similarly, his wife Romita Shetty has also financial management background and served in various financial institutions in a senior position.

They both own a company Ahimsa Hospitality Limited, a company registered in Mumbai India. According to the company profile, it has more than INR 107 million paid-up capital. There are total five directors of the company, which include two Indian nationals, an American and Nasser Aziz and Mrs Romita Shetty. Apart from this, both Nasser and Romita Shetty run a family charity foundation named after both of them which generously donates in different welfare projects.

When contacted, sources close to Nasser's family told The News that his wife Romita Shetty has nothing to do with this donation. The contribution was made by Nasser only. About the hospitality company registered in India, a source close to the family said, "They are involved in investments all over the world. That particular company was a restaurant franchise in India."

When contacted, State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said he cannot hear this scribe properly and asked to send him a written questionnaire. Upon receiving written queries, he called back and said the figure of 65 accounts is not correct.

“Our party has already submitted its response to the ECP. The scrutiny committee has misunderstood the bank account while cumulating the total number of accounts. There were a total of 18 bank accounts of the party and the number quoted in the scrutiny committee report was incorrect.

"There were some accounts which had no links with central accounts. They were not used for fund collection,” replied Farrukh Habib.

Talking about any donation from an Indian American, he said if there was any donation made by any Indian national, the party will duly respond to the ECP. “We are answerable to only those amounts that have been transferred to the party’s central account,” he commented. He, however, did not answer the question about concealing the transactions from 14 different countries.