Broadsheet commission to probe other cases as well

Published January 28, 2021
The government has finalised terms of reference (TORs) of retired Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh-led inquiry commission. — Photo Courtesy: SC website
The government has finalised terms of reference (TORs) of retired Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh-led inquiry commission. — Photo Courtesy: SC website

ISLAMABAD: The government has finalised terms of reference (TORs) of retired Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh-led inquiry commission under which it will probe not only the Broadsheet saga but also all mega corruption cases which have surfaced since 1999.

A source in the government engaged in preparation of the TORs told Dawn on Wednesday that the commission had been empowered to investigate corruption scandals that had taken place since 1999, the year of establishment of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

It is expected that the government would formally make the TORs of the commission public on Thursday (today).

The source said the TORs of the initially formed inquiry committee had been enhanced for the inquiry commission with more powers and enhanced purview.

The body’s terms of reference finalised

Earlier, the inquiry committee was formed to probe the Broadsheet saga, but later the inquiry commission was constituted following approval of the federal cabinet.

The main objective of the committee was to investigate reports of the UK-based assets recovery firm Broadsheet on corruption allegedly committed by over 200 Pakistani nationals, including politicians, bureaucrats and military personnel, in 45 days. However, for the commission the time limit for completion of the investigation can also be extended.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while presiding over a meeting of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf parliamentary committee on Wednesday, said the commission would investigate Surrey Palace scam, Swiss courts cases and other mage corruption cases.

In Surrey Palace scam, the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party, including former president Asif Ali Zardari, was accused of committing money laundering and buying the palace.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz said in a press conference that the inquiry commission would also investigate previous rulers’ involvement in corruption and money laundering on a large scale.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed in a private TV channel show said the Broadsheet inquiry would be bigger than Panama Papers scam. “It will be Panama Papers Leaks II plus,” he said.

He said many investigations earlier carried out by NAB and even by the Federal Investigation Agency would become part of the commission’s investigation.

“The next three months will be crucial,” he said, adding that Hudaibia Paper Mills case (against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members) and Surrey Palace case would become a source of trouble (for the accused).

The TORs of the initially formed inquiry committee had included the questions as to “how assets recovery firms Trouvons LLC, Broadsheet and IAR 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 [the government of Pakistan]? Who drafted the agreement? Was it vetted internally by lawyers’ independent counsel? Why the agreement was both in the GOP’s and NAB name and not just NAB?

“Part 2: Cancellation of the Contract: When NAB decided to terminate the agreement? Why was the statutory notice period of 30 days set out in the agreement not given? Advice given by Kendall Freeman Solicitors? Whether their advice was negligent in any way? Whether concerns were raised with Broadsheet and IAR before cancellation and their response? Was there a response from Broadsheet’s lawyers and subsequent legal advice (if any) given by Kendall Freeman?

“Part 3: Settlements with IAR and Broadsheet: Under this section the inquiry committee will inquire what were the terms of settlement and how the figures of $1.5 million and $2.25 million were arrived at? Whether due diligence was exercised during the settlement? Whether legal advice was sought at the time of settlement from Isle of Man lawyer? The method of payment for settlement? The advice sought during the settlement process?

“Part 4: Arbitration: Whether advice was sought on merit 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?

“Part 5: Payment at Enforcement: 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 Commission shall be empowered to summon any individual and call for the record from any organisation/Department as they deem fit.”

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2021

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