close
Thursday August 11, 2022

British newspaper reveals Arif Naqvi funnelled charity funds to PTI

A report released by a British newspaper has claimed that money collected as a charity in the UK was transferred to the PTI

July 30, 2022
Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi. File photo
Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi. File photo

LONDON: A report released by a British newspaper has claimed that money collected as charity in the UK was transferred to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan.

Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi collected the money for the political party in the name of charity, revealed the Financial Times (FT).

The newspaper revealed in an investigation that Arif Naqvi’s Cayman Islands-incorporated company Wootton Cricket Ltd was used to bankroll the PTI after receiving funds from companies and individuals including at least £2 million in April 2013 from Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, a United Arab Emirates government minister, who is also a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.

The FT said in its report: “Pakistan forbids foreign nationals and companies from funding political parties, but Abraaj emails and internal documents seen by the Financial Times, including a bank statement covering the period between February 28 and May 30 2013 for a Wootton Cricket account in the UAE, show that both companies and foreign nationals as well as citizens of Pakistan sent millions of dollars to Wootton Cricket — before money was transferred from the account to Pakistan for the PTI.”

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been investigating the funding of the PTI for more than seven years. In January, the ECP scrutiny committee issued a damning report in which it said the PTI received funding from foreign nationals and companies. Wootton Cricket was named in the report, but Naqvi wasn’t identified as its owner.

The FT claimed in its report by journalist Simon Mubarak al-Nahyan, a United Arab Emirates government minister, who is also a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.

The FT said in its report: “Pakistan forbids foreign nationals and companies from funding political parties, but Abraaj emails and internal documents seen by the Financial Times, including a bank statement covering the period between February 28 and May 30 2013 for a Wootton Cricket account in the UAE, show that both companies and foreign nationals as well as citizens of Pakistan sent millions of dollars to Wootton Cricket — before money was transferred from the account to Pakistan for the PTI.” The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been investigating the funding of the PTI for more than seven years. In January, the ECP scrutiny committee issued a damning report in which it said the PTI received funding from foreign nationals and companies. Wootton Cricket was named in the report, but Naqvi wasn’t identified as its owner.

The FT claimed in its report by journalist Simon Clark that PTI’s foreign funding case has been alive for several years and Pakistani authorities were aware that Arif Naqvi funded the PTI but the ultimate source of the money was being disclosed for the first time.

The Financial Times said: “Wootton Cricket’s bank statement shows it received $1.3mln on March 14, 2013 from Abraaj Investment Management Ltd, the fund management unit of Naqvi’s private equity firm, boosting the account’s previous balance of $5,431. Later, the same day, $1.3mln was transferred from the account directly to a PTI bank account in Pakistan. Abraaj expensed the cost to a holding company through which it controlled K-Electric, the power provider to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. A further $2mln flowed into the Wootton Cricket account in April 2013 from Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, government minister and chair of Pakistan’s Bank Alfalah, according to the bank statement and a copy of the Swift transfer details.

“Naqvi then exchanged emails with a colleague about transferring $1.2mln more to the PTI. Six days after the $2mln arrived in the Wootton Cricket bank account, Naqvi transferred $1.2mln from it to Pakistan in two instalments. Rafique Lakhani, the senior Abraaj executive responsible for managing cash flow, wrote in an email to Naqvi that the transfers were intended for the PTI,” the FT revealed.

The FT said the PTI received foreign funding ahead of 2013 general elections when Imran Khan needed funding the most. “It was a critical time for Khan to gather funds ahead of the election scheduled for May 2013, and Naqvi worked closely with other Pakistani businessmen to raise money for his campaign.

According to the FT, in another email to Lakhani after the Sheikh’s money entered the Wootton Cricket account Naqvi wrote: “Do not tell anyone where funds are coming from, i.e. who is contributing.”

“Sure sir,” Lakhani responded. He wrote that he would transfer $1.2mln from Wootton Cricket to the PTI’s account in Pakistan. Then after considering sending the funds to the PTI via Naqvi’s personal account, Lakhani proposed sending the money in two instalments to a personal account for businessman Tariq Shafi in Karachi and an account for an entity called the Insaf Trust in Lahore. Although the ownership of the Insaf Trust is unclear, the emails state that the final destination was the PTI, said the FT. “Don’t eff this up rafiq,” Naqvi wrote in another email. On May 6 2013, Wootton Cricket transferred a total of $1.2mln to Shafi and the Insaf Trust. Lakhani wrote in an email to Naqvi that the transfers were for the PTI, the FT said in its investigative report.

The former premier Imran Khan replied to questions sent by the FT. He told the paper in written answers that he had visited Arif Naqvi’s Wootton Place for “a fundraising event which was attended by many PTI supporters”.

Imran Khan confirmed that Tariq Shafi donated to the PTI. “It is for Tariq Shafi to answer as to from where he received this money.” Khan told the FT. Shafi did not respond to requests for comment.

Imran Khan told the FT that neither he nor his party was aware of Abraaj providing $1.3mln through Wootton Cricket. He also said he was “not aware” of the PTI receiving any funds that originated from Sheikh Nahyan. “Arif Naqvi has given a statement which was filed before the Election Commission also, not denied by anyone, that the money came from donations during a cricket match and the money as collected by him was sent through his company Wootton Cricket,” Imran Khan wrote.

He told the paper he was waiting for the verdict of the election commission’s investigation. “It will not be appropriate to prejudge PTI,” the former PM said.

The FT said Arif Naqvi had told the ECP that he had “not collected any fund from any person of non-Pakistani origin, company [public or private] or any other prohibited source” but the bank statement for Wootton Cricket contradicts his claim and show that Naqvi transferred three instalments directly to the PTI in 2013, adding up to a total of $2.12mln. “The largest was the $1.3mln from Abraaj, which company documents show was transferred to Wootton Cricket but charged to its holding company for K-Electric.”

Akbar S Babar, who helped establish the PTI, told the FT that “prohibited funding took place”.

The FT wrote that Arif Naqvi lobbied the governments of Nawaz Sharif in 2016 and Imran Khan for backing for the sale of Karachi Electric (KE). It said: “In 2016, he authorised a $20mn payment for Pakistan politicians to gain their support, according to US public prosecutors who later charged him with fraud, theft and attempted bribery. The payment was allegedly intended for Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz, who replaced Khan as prime minister in April. The brothers have denied any knowledge of the matter. In January 2017, Naqvi hosted a dinner for Nawaz Sharif at Davos. After Khan became prime minister, Naqvi met him. While in office Khan criticised officials for delaying the sale of K-Electric but the deal has still not been completed.”

Arif Naqvi didn’t respond to questions by the FT.

Muhammad Anis adds from Islamabad: Reacting to the FT report, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Friday said the Financial Times report a serious charge-sheet, which showed that Imran Niazi was a bunch of massive contradiction, lies and hypocrisy. While referring to details of the report, he questioned whether it could be more damning.

He said the charade of self-proclaimed honesty and righteousness had been busted by the Financial Times story that details the flow of foreign funding into PTI bank accounts. “Screaming facts!,” he remarked.

PTI Senior Vice-President Chaudhry Fawad Hussain also commented on the FT report. He said that despite the fact that the Sharif brothers received $20 million is mentioned only as a passing remark, the legal funding of $1.3mln to the PTI was pegged as something drastic. This angling of the Financial Times is worse than what some Pak media groups do, he added.

In his tweets on Friday, Fawad said the PTI stance was that the ECP verdict on three parties should be announced at one time. “The objective of the law on funding is that the voter should know who is funding a political party. The PTI provided details of over 40,000 donors to the Election Commission of Pakistan.”

Fawad claimed that “Israeli lobby” was behind the fall of Arif Naqvi and his equity firm Abraaj.

Blaming the Jewish state, Fawad said: “Arif Naqvi’s Abraaj had grown to the value of $14 billion. The Israeli lobby doesn’t like whenever a Muslim, in particular a Pakistani, rises in influence beyond a certain limit.

“The US has filed a case against Arif Naqvi and the case is that he has violated the US financial laws. The BCCI was closed over similar allegations. Why should we become part of that propaganda when we know that the Israeli lobby is behind all this.” In its reaction over the FT report, K-Electric, the power utility supplying electricity in Karachi, denied making any payment to Arif Naqvi’s Wootton Cricket Ltd.

A press release issued by the utility said the FT report was reviewed and it contained no allegation directed specifically towards K-Electric. “Any attempt to link KE to the payments is false and based on misrepresentations of information,” added the release. 

Comments