ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday formed an inquiry committee to be headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court or high court with the task to investigate in 45 days the “fresh revelations” in a verdict of a British court in the UK-based asset recovery firm Broadsheet LLC case and fix the responsibility on those Pakistanis who, according to the firm, had illegally benefited themselves and laundered money to off-shore banks.
“The committee would comprise one representative each of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Attorney General for Pakistan, besides a senior advocate to be nominated by the prime minister,” said Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz, who was accompanied by Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, in a press conference after the cabinet meeting.
The federal cabinet in its meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, formed a new committee on recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee that had been earlier constituted by the prime minister to look into the Broadsheet saga.
Headed by former judge, committee asked to fix responsibility on beneficiaries
Senator Faraz said: “The Broadsheet verdict was based on facts about the corruption stories of previous rulers. It contained the details of corruption of loot and plunder committed before 2000, but another inquiry was required to look into the wrongdoings done after 2000.”
He said the former rulers fully benefitted from the NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) concessions and again went on the looting spree of national wealth sans any remorse and shame. “The leaders of opposition parties, while in power, misappropriated the national exchequer time and again,” he added.
Responding to a question, the information minister said it was not the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government that unearthed the hidden properties of the Sharif family but Broadsheet, an impartial asset recovery firm that had no grudge against the Sharifs.
The minister said the government was only interested in bringing back the looted and plundered money stashed abroad, and it would take action against the corrupt irrespective of their party affiliations. Surrey Palace, Swiss accounts, Omni case, fake bank accounts case, all were on the radar of the committee, he remarked.
The ministerial committee observed that from the start of the agreements to the purported settlements in 2007-8, arbitration conducted especially between 2009 till 2018 (Liability Award & Quantum Award) and various deals made during this period for political exigencies that this matter requires detailed forensic probe by experts of the field. Therefore, the committee recommended to the prime minister to constitute an inquiry committee headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court or high court to examine the circumstances relating to the Broadsheet agreement and subsequent arbitration proceedings, which resulted in substantial loss to the national exchequer.
Aimed at establishing facts, determining accountability and learning lessons for future litigation and arbitration proceedings, the inquiry committee will provide its recommendations.
The inquiry is to be conducted in accordance with the following Terms of Reference (TORs).
- There are five parts which the inquiry committee will examine and fix responsibility on all involved and consequential beneficiaries.
(a) Selection of firms: Firstly, the selection and appointment of Trouvons LLC, Broadsheet and International Asset Recovery Limited (‘IAR”) and signing of the agreement in June 2000 between the government of Pakistan (GOP) and these companies. The committee will look into how Trouvons LLC, Broadsheet & IAR firms were selected? Who introduced the firm? The due diligence conducted before selection? The change from Trouvons LLC to Broadsheet? What measures were put in place to protect interests of GOP? Who drafted the Agreement? Was it vetted internally by lawyers independent counsel? Why the agreement was both in GOP’s name and NAB and not just NAB?
(b) Cancellation of contract: Secondly, the circumstances relating to the cancellation of the contract with Broadsheet and IAR in October 2003. The committee is required to determine when the NAB decided to terminate the agreement? Why the statutory notice period of 30 days set out in the agreement was not given before termination? Advice given by Kendall Freeman Solicitors? Whether its advice was negligent in any way? Whether concerns were raised with Broadsheet & IAR before cancellation and their response? Was there a response from Broadsheet’s lawyers and subsequent legal advice (if any) given by Kendall Freeman?
(c) Settlements with IAR and Broadsheet: Thirdly, the settlement with IAR in January 2008 and the purported settlement in May 2008 with Broadsheet: The inquiry committee will inquire what the terms of settlement were and how the figures of $1.5m and $2.25m were arrived at. Whether due diligence was exercised during the settlement? Whether legal advice was sought at time of settlement from Isle of Man lawyer? The method of payment for settlement? The advice sought during the settlement process?
(d) Arbitration: Fourthly, the manner in which the GOP arbitrated the proceedings before the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and litigated the appeal in the High Court of Justice in London. It requires whether advice was sought on merits before pursuing the route of arbitration? The hiring and selection of lawyers? Criteria applied for selection? Why Howard & Sherman were sacked? How the new firm was selected? The manner in which the dispute was arbitrated. Fee structure? Any defences including sovereign immunity? Merits in appealing to the High Court in London, a number of grounds were pleaded but only one argued at the hearing, what the advice was before appealing? Whether sufficient supervision and checks and balances during litigation proceedings were adopted?
(e) Payment at enforcement: Fifthly, the process of making the payment to the claimant and protecting the GOP’s assets in the UK at enforcement stage of the award. It will be investigated that when did the award become final and binding? Whether the process of making the payment could have been expedited? In addition, the inquiry committee shall be empowered to summon any individual and call for the record from any organisation/department as they deem fit.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2021