NAB let Dar off the hook after getting his help: UK judge

Published January 20, 2021
Ishaq Dar had been a prominent politician even before the establishment of NAB and closely associated with former premier Nawaz Sharif throughout that period and to date. — AFP/File
Ishaq Dar had been a prominent politician even before the establishment of NAB and closely associated with former premier Nawaz Sharif throughout that period and to date. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: UK’s arbitrator Sir Anthony Evans in his December 2018 final award on quantum in the Broadsheet LLC case has highlighted that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) never agreed to include former finance minister Ishaq Dar as a target since he had rendered some assistance to the bureau during 2000-01 on the assets belonging to the Sharif family.

“Talat Ghumman — a witness in the quantum award hearing and who remained in NAB until 2004 — said in his evidence that there was a reason why NAB never agreed to its inclusion, because Mr Dar gave some assistance to NAB regarding Sharif family’s assets in 2000/1,” noted the quantum award.

Mr Dar had been a prominent politician even before the establishment of NAB and closely associated with former premier Nawaz Sharif throughout that period and to date. The ex-minister had been the subject of the investigations by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court in 2017-08 during the Panama Papers case, recalled the award.

He was never in the list of registered persons in the Schedule 1 to the June 2000 Asset Recovery Agreement (ARA) signed between NAB and the Broadsheet LLC, but his name was included in a list submitted by Broadsheet through its letter of August 12, 2000 and again in a further letter from Broadsheet to NAB on Jan 5, 2001.

Settlement agreement with James was authorised for NAB by an executive decision

It was stated during the hearing on behalf of the respondents (NAB) that there was no evidence that they ever agreed to its inclusion in the list, as required by clause 1.2 of the ARA, the award said, adding that a number of procedural issues regarding Mr Dar’s inclusion or otherwise was raised at the quantum hearing and in their respective closing submissions, after the August 2016 liability hearing, the claimants (Broadsheet) produced a list of registered persons which included Dar’s name, but the respondents (NAB) disputed it.

One of the agreed issues for decision in the liability award was on the true construction of Schedule 1 of the ARA, which individuals or entities were registered as targets pursuant to clause 1.2 of the ARA and although the liability award did not adopt the parties list, it included references to the agreed list, the award recalled.

The respondents submitted that the claimant was barred from raising the issue as to Dar’s inclusion and it was indicated to the parties on the first day of the quantum hearing that they might like to consider their positions regarding this issue overnight, the award said, adding that no further application was made in this regard.

Mr Ghumman’s third witness statement testified that NAB never agreed Dar could be a registered target, recollecting that there were no investigations against Dar during his time at NAB (until August 2004), the award said. In the end, the award held that Mr Dar was never a registered target under the ARA.

When Broadsheet, registered in the Isle of Man, was formally dissolved in April 2007, negotiations were under way between NAB represented by distinguished lawyer Ahmer Bilal Soofi and Jimmy James’s associates representing another company International Asset Recovery (IAR) that had made an agreement similar to the ARA but relating to other parts of the world also in 2000 at about the same time as he entered into the ARA on behalf of Broadsheet, the award said.

In addition, the award said, James representing Broadsheet without disclosing that the company was in liquidation and was recently formally dissolved began to negotiate a settlement agreement with NAB, which was represented by Advocate Soofi. His purpose in doing so can readily be inferred from the facts that at about this time he formed a new Colorado company (also called Broadsheet) that he represented as a successor to Broadsheet LLC. When the settlement agreement was signed on May 20, 2008, it provided that NAB would make payments totalling $1.5 million in settlement of the claim made under the ARA, not to Broadsheet or its liquidator but to Broadsheet Colorado that James controlled in effect to him personally, the award said.

When these facts became known to Kaveh Moussavi of the Broadsheet LLC, he took steps to have the dissolution of Broadsheet set aside and a new liquidator was appointed who authorised these arbitration proceedings against NAB, the award said.

The settlement agreement was authorised for NAB by an executive decision in which Ahmer Bilal Soofi was not involved and there was no evidence who the decision-makers were, the award said, also stating that in addition to $1.5m paid under the settlement agreement, NAB also paid $2.25m in settlement of the claim by IAR also in about 2008. James later died in 2011-12.

Meanwhile, Ahmer Bilal Soofi in a statement clarified that he was neither present in London at the Pakistan High Commission’s meeting nor was he invited to attend it and, therefore, he did not make payments via cheques to Jerry James.

The August 2016 final award on liability, which was based on evidence, also recorded that Mr Soofi was not personally involved in the signing and execution of the settlement agreement.

Mr Soofi said it was an admitted fact that he was kept out of the meeting in London for reasons unknown to him in which James was required to bring the complete record illustrating the requisite authorisation and necessary documents.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2021

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