IN an interview with a UK-based web channel, the owner of international asset recovery firm, Broadsheet LLC, spoke about the beginnings of his firm’s relationship with the Musharraf regime as well as his attempts to offer his now liquidated company’s services to subsequent governments.
Nearly $29 million dollars retrieved from the Pakistan government are now in an account in the Isle of Man, where the company is registered since 2000, Iranian-born British lawyer Kaveh Moussavi confirmed to Irfan Hashmi Official, a London-based YouTube channel dedicated to Pakistani news coverage.
The same year the firm was hired by the Musharraf government to retrieve alleged illegal offshore assets of Pakistani politicians and businessmen. His payment under the asset recovery agreement was contracted at 20 per cent of the recovery from each ‘target’, the term used for those being probed.
The contract was terminated in 2003, and although Mr Moussavi claims to have explosive evidence, it is not clear which, if any, assets have been repatriated to the government after his investigations.
Broadsheet owner says he entered into agreement with Musharraf to go after elements across political spectrum, not just Sharifs
To the contrary, Broadsheet LLC has secured the payment of $28.7 million from the accounts of the UK High Commission last month for the long overdue payment of its services, as enforced by a UK court.
Mr Moussavi said his group was approached in 2000 to come to Pakistan with a view to go after stolen assets by elements in the Gen Musharraf regime.
He added that he entered into the contract on the key condition that the agreement to go after “targets”, such as former president Asif Ali Zardari and former premier Sharif, would not be revoked if there was a change in government.
“We had lawyers in Pakistan working with us, they were liaising with NAB. We had officers in the NAB building [who worked out of] an office we had there.”
“Initially, the focus of Musharraf was to go after Nawaz Sharif and his government but we insisted we would not be a tool of a political witch-hunt and said previous governments should be looked at too,” he added, saying this expanded their search to include the Bhutto government.
“They [Musharraf government] gave us their list [of ‘targets’] and we said it’s incomplete. We told them we think, from preliminary investigation, that some other people should be in that list. Those negotiations at the time showed us that this was possibly politically inspired. We said we aren’t prepared to engage in political witch hunts… if you want an anti-corruption effort it must be across the board.”
Mr Moussavi claimed his firm made a list of 200 people and their companies with alleged ill-gotten assets overseas. “We did not want to go after adversaries of Gen Musharraf, we wanted to go after enemies of the people of Pakistan,” he maintained.
He praised retired Lt Gen Mohammad Amjad, who was appointed first NAB chairman between 1999 and 2000 by Gen Musharraf. Later in 2017, the former chairman also testified before a JIT probing money laundering allegations against the family of Mr Sharif.
“When Gen Amjad was there, it [probe] was going swimmingly,” he said, adding that he later worked with Gen Maqbool and Gen Hafeez, both of whom found evidence that “the court didn’t find credible”.
He believed NAB “went downhill” when Amjad was removed. “If I had suspected it would fall apart this quickly, I would never have entered this agreement.”
He also said when he saw Musharraf again at the Oxford Union in 2007, he asked what happened. “Musharraf told me ‘you know Mr Moussavi the Supreme Court told us to have an election and we did so. They came back to power and gutted NAB’.”
Asked what progress his firm made in three years, Mr Moussavi said Broadsheet LLC was behind the 2001 extradition of ex-Navy chief Admiral Mansurul Haque who was brought back from the US to stand trial on charges of corruption in defense deals.
“Broadsheet did its work,” he insisted, claiming that it was “sacked because it was too successful”.
He also claimed he still had evidence against the Sharifs and several other Pakistanis. He said the reason Broadsheet LLC did not pursue the Avenfield case was “because we found other money in the Pakistan government’s accounts”.
He also said that his firm had never approached the Sharifs for help, as was reported by this correspondent based on an email exchange between the company’s law firm Crowel and Moring with the Sharifs’ lawyers in which the firm explicitly asked for assistance.
Broadsheet laid a claim to attach the Sharifs’ Avenfield properties to its case but on December 2, 2020 a court ordered the company’s claim as discharged. On December 18, the court through a final third party debt order ordered that funds be debited from the Pakistan High Commission’s bank accounts in London as an enforcement of an earlier judgement.
Meeting with Shahzad Akbar
When asked if he contacted anyone in the government to pay the amount owed to Broadsheet LLC, Mr Moussavi said he had given up contacting officials over the years due to a lack of trust.
He also claimed that he met PM’s accountability adviser Shahzad Akbar twice in October 2018 to ask how the payment issue would be resolved. “He asked for a discount! I told him: this is not a souk – it’s a court order.”
Although he spoke well of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his adviser, he said he had become “somewhat sceptical to their claims of probity”.
He claimed he also told Mr Akbar in 2018 about an account he was aware of with a whopping “$1 billion” but that the PM’s aide didn’t want to pursue it.
“I met a Pakistani general in London [on this issue] and we discussed it – I’ve given an affidavit to the UK’s National Crime Agency on this – but they [Pakistani government] completely ignored that information.” He said he had also alerted the 2017 Sharif government to this purported billion-dollar account but got no response.
Mr Moussavi said despite his bitter experience, he was willing to return the near $29 million dollars to the government of Pakistan if they contracted his company to nab the allegedly illegal overseas assets of Pakistani individuals.
“I am more than happy to give back the money we have seized to the Imran Khan government. I know him to be a man of integrity, whether he has the power to deliver only God knows. I have no doubt Shahzad Akbar has integrity but he has no power. I am prepared to state: every penny the court has ordered, I am willing to hand it back as long as they show us the commitment that they want us to go after the thieves under a new contract.”
When Dawn approached Mr Akbar for his comment on Mr Moussavi’s claims, he said: “As a representative of the government, we made every effort to limit the financial cost of this award.”
He said: “We tried to appeal to his conscience and tell him he did not do anything. He bought a company that was in liquidation, did nothing to assist Pakistan… because of him Pakistan did not get anything.
“He won this case because of a faulty contract. He is skimming Pakistan.”
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2021