Thursday July 07, 2022

Broadsheet case: Those involved in manipulating NAB documents be held accountable, says Ayaz

May 17, 2022

LONDON: Minister for Economic Affairs Ayaz Sadiq has said those involved in concealing and manipulating National Accountability Bureau documents in relation to the Broadsheet case should be held accountable.

Speaking to media here on Monday, he said everyone knew that Shehzad Akbar, former SAPM and head of the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU), was involved in the Broadsheet issue and “there are other people including ministers, who have been visiting the UK and holding meetings” in relation to the settlement of the Broadsheet’s case against Pakistan.

Before the London High Court allowed the Broadsheet to seize the assets of Pakistan at the United Bank Limited and before the payment was made to the Broadsheet, Shehzad Akbar and others met Broadsheet CEO Kaveh Moussavi and held talks.

When asked about Broadsheet Commission Head Justice (retd) Azmat Saeed’s statement that crucial papers related to the Broadsheet case had gone missing, Sadiq said: “Those involved in this case should be held accountable and we will hold them accountable, but we are here for a few days only,”

Speaking about the overall Broadsheet deal, the minister said it was clear that deliberate harm was caused during the whole process and those involved deserved to be held accountable. He said the genuine and transparent accountability would take place when the accountability system was transparent and there was a new NAB chairman. Importantly, the staff who reshuffled things should be transferred or re-appointed in a transparent manner.

He said the current coalition government did not want to arrest anyone unnecessarily and “keep them for 90 days in torture cells and then say after 90 days that a reference will be filed. This is not the right approach”.

The Broadsheet LLC had been hired by Pakistan more than two decades ago to trace assets belonging to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members and several other politicians and businessmen including Asif Ali Zardari and Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan broke the contract in violation of the agreement it had signed and the case has so far cost Pakistan close to $65 million in legal fees and awards after Kaveh Moussavi, who beneficially owns Broadsheet, brought the case before sole arbitrator Sir Anthony Evans QC under the rules of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. The arbitration judge found that Pakistan had conspired to criminally defraud Broadsheet Isle of Man.

Former PM Imran Khan had ordered an inquiry into the scandal and a one-man inquiry commission under Justice Azmat Saeed had looked into the case. The commission, in its report, said the record related to the UK-based firm Broadsheet LLC was "missing almost everywhere including the Pakistan High Commission in London". Since then, independently of the former judge’s enquiry, separate inquiries led by senators and MNAs have turned up materials which are the subject of direct starred questions in parliament, requiring ministerial responses. Those questions relating to collusion between NAB officials and the Cayman Islands hedge fund VRGP are awaiting response from the relevant ministers.

When pressed on this, Sadiq said that since prima facie evidence of criminal collusion had been found, despite the missing documents, parliamentary answers would need to cater to this to ensure that the investigations into corruption are not compromised.

Conspicuously, the head of the mission did "not consider it necessary" to record the statements of Broadsheet owner Kaveh Moussavi and Tariq Fawad Malik who was part of the firm's team in Pakistan. According to the report, "Even before the commission could become functional upon provision of office space and staff [...] the bureaucracy went into a self-preservation mode and withdrew into its shell like a threatened snail. The level of non-cooperation from various ministries/divisions/departments would have made Gandhi proud. Every effort was made to conceal, hide and 'misplace' the relevant record in a rather obvious effort to cover up the incompetence and corruption of the present incumbents, their predecessors and political benefactors."