Controversy over Broadsheet scandal echoes in Senate

Published January 19, 2021
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar all the proceedings of the arbitration over Broadsheet’s claim had been held during the last two governments of PPP and PML-N. — APP/File
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar all the proceedings of the arbitration over Broadsheet’s claim had been held during the last two governments of PPP and PML-N. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The controversy over UK-based asset recovery firm Broadsheet LLC echoed in the Senate on Monday, with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar chiding the PPP for making $1.5 million payment to a wrong company and the PML-N for keeping the August 2016 decision of the award in the Broadsheet case a secret.

Speaking in the Senate, Mr Akbar said the reason for the secrecy was obvious as Broadsheet had been paid $20.5m for the information the company had gathered about the Sharif family’s ill-gotten assets, including the Avenfield property.

He said all the proceedings of the arbitration over Broadsheet’s claim had been held during the last two governments of PPP and PML-N.

He said the arbitrator in London held the government of Pakistan guilty of making a deal with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in December 2000 and allowing him to go into self-exile and live in Saroor Palace in Saudi Arabia.

PPP slammed for paying $1.5m to a wrong firm and PML-N for keeping a decision secret

Quoting from the judgement, Mr Akbar said that the UK-based company suffered the loss to its honest earning as a result of the deal.

He said that quantum decision had two parts in which arbitrator had given the details of the liability. In the first part, he said, it fixed $100m (Rs16 billion) as 20 per cent share of the Broadsheet firm for recovering assets of Schon Group worth $48,760; Lakhani, $25,000; Fouzi Kazmi, $85,600; retired Gen Zahid Ali Akbar, $381,600; (Aftab) Sherpao, $210,000; and Ansari assets: $180,000, $158,000.

The second part of liability award, out of the total $21.5m, was fixed at $1.5m for tracing Avenfield properties of the Sharif family, Mr Akbar said. He said another $19m liability was fixed for the Sharif family’s other assets. The total liability was $21. 5m and the government had to pay the remaining amount out of a total of $29m in the form of interest due to the pendency of the matter. “We have to pay $20.5m on account of assets of the Sharif family out of the total $21. 5m liability.”

He said the PTI government made this payment on Dec 31, 2020, because no other forum for appeal had been left and $5,000 per day had been fixed as penalty for any delay in the payment.

The adviser further said the arbitrator in the judgement said that it had conducted a forensic study of the JIT report and the Sharif family’s ill-gotten money had been estimated to be worth $820m. The arbitrator did not fix the liability on the basis of this $820m. Otherwise the Broadsheet company was demanding $160m as its 20 per cent share on the basis of the Sharif family’s assets, he added. “This is the fact of the Broadsheet case. Mr chairman, our guilt is that we are facing the brunt of their misdeeds,” he told the Senate.

Mr Akbar said the Musharraf government had engaged two firms, Broadsheet and International Asset Recovery (IAR), in 2000 to find out assets of 200 Pakistanis.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif proceeded to Saudi Arabia in December 2000 as a result of a deal. In 2003, the NAB suspended the agreement with the Broadsheet and IAR, he said.

In 2007, both the companies issued notices to the government for arbitration.

“In 2008, the government made a payment of $2.5m to IAR as settlement,” he said, adding that the second settlement agreement had been signed with Broadsheet company. In 2008, he said, when PPP’s Yousuf Raza Gilani was the PM, the government got a new notice for the payment or otherwise be ready for arbitration and it became clear that the wrong firm had been made a payment of $1.5m.

From 2009, the proceedings of arbitration were started during PPP’s rule and eventually the hearing to fix the liability award was fixed in January 2016 when the PML-N was in power.

In August 2016, the award was decided and it was not made public on the request of then government of the PML-N. He said that the amount of liability was to be decided and these proceedings were between 2016 and 2018 during PML-N government. Before the general election of 2018, the liability was decided and an appeal against the order was filed by the then caretaker government. The appeal was decided at the end of 2018.

Shahzad Akbar said that all three orders about the Broadsheet case, including high court order, the liability award by Sir Anthony Evans, and quantum proceedings had also been made public after the government’s consent.

“What can be more fun than this that the case is against Sharif’s assets and it was being fought by then government of Pakistan, headed by Nawaz Sharif,” he said, adding that this was the price of NRO and deals.

Earlier, the PPP’s parliamentary leader in Senate Sherry Rehman sought an explanation from the government about $28m paid by NAB to Broadsheet company.

She said 200 people had been named in the Broadsheet case, but some of them got NROs and the rest plea bargained with the government.

“Why have a lot of names been removed? This was done to break the two biggest political parties of this country: the PPP and PML-N. Broadsheet Company was not engaged for assets’ recovery. Now we find out that the government paid around $1.5m to an unauthorised individual and his fake firm. Is the government sleeping or it just doesn’t care,” she wondered.

She said Broadsheet’s owner, Mr Moussavi, had said that he had shared with PM’s Adviser Shahzad Akbar information about $1bn laundered by an influential person in Pakistan. “Where is the inquiry over this?”

The PML-N’s Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi called upon the Senate chairman to summon a Committee of the Whole meeting on this matter. He challenged the figures cited by the PM’s Adviser.

“We want the Committee of the Whole to deliberate on this. Who had done these agreements and who made offers and who tried to get away with it. Truth should surface,” he said. His suggestion was welcomed by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz by thumping the desk and then taking the floor to welcome it so that the nation got the whole picture of the entire scandal.

Former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani pointed out that the details shared by the adviser were linked to the agreement between NAB and UK-based company Broad­sheet signed by the Musharraf government while the NAB was headed by Gen Amjad.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2021

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