UK journalist played role in Moussavi-Akbar meeting

Published February 16, 2021
This combo picture shows British journalist David Rose (left), SAPM Shahzad Akbar (middle) and Broadsheet owner Kaveh Moussavi. — Photos APP/Twitter
This combo picture shows British journalist David Rose (left), SAPM Shahzad Akbar (middle) and Broadsheet owner Kaveh Moussavi. — Photos APP/Twitter

LONDON: Broadsheet owner Kaveh Moussavi has alleged that British journalist David Rose asked for a commission in exchange for his assistance in recovering the sum of about $29 million from the Pakistan government.

The journalist, who writes for The Mail on Sunday and Mail Online and whose story against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shehbaz Sharif is presently at the centre of a defamation suit, has denied asking for any commission.

Explainer: The UK libel case that captured Pakistan’s attention

In October 2019, when Mr Moussavi was desperate to recover the court-mandated award of $29m from the Pakistan government, he approached Mr Rose and asked for his assistance. It has now emerged that Mr Rose set up the first meeting between Mr Moussavi and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on (SAPM) Accountability Shahzad Akbar at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, and that he was present during the meeting.

In an interview to Geo News, Mr Moussavi said: “David Rose said he knew Shahzad Akbar so we had a chat at my house and he later organised the meeting [with Akbar]. He [Rose] asked what was in it for him, and wanted his mortgage to be settled if Broadsheet entered into a deal with Pakistan.

“We shook hands that I would settle his mortgage of GBP250,000,” said Mr Moussavi, indicating that if he had recovered the payment from Pakistan at the time, he would have paid Mr Rose the commission.

David Rose says he introduced Broadsheet owner to SAPM, but denies asking for commission

Mr Rose tweeted on Monday, saying Mr Moussavi asked him to arrange the meeting. “I’ve known Shahzad for a long time too, so I agreed to do this. So far as I was concerned, I was just doing a favour for a friend, though twice Kaveh said he would pay me a commission if he concluded a settlement,” he wrote.

“At first I thought he was joking, but when he repeated the offer by text, I told him (verbally) I couldn’t accept this. I never asked for and never received any payment in relation to this meeting.”

Broadsheet was engaged by Gen Musharraf some 20 years ago to investigate the offshore property of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.

In December 2018, former English court of appeal Judge Sir Anthony Evans QC, as sole arbitrator, issued an order for payment of $22m to Broadsheet by the government of Pakistan. In July 2019, the government appealed the arbitration, but was unsuccessful in its bid. The arbitrator found that Pakistan and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had wrongfully repudiated an asset recovery agreement with Broadsheet and ruled that the company is entitled to damages. For the next few months, Broadsheet was in correspondence with members of NAB as well as the AGP for the payment of the funds.

In October 2019, Mr Moussavi met with Mr Akbar to demand the $22m payment as ordered by the court, but Mr Akbar sought a discount to limit the loss to the national exchequer. Mr Moussavi rejected requests for a discount and approached the court to enforce the payment. In December 2019, the company successfully secured a third party debt order which forced the payment of around $29 million to Broadsheet which accumulated into $28.7m due to non-payment of interest, which incurred at a rate of $4,758 per day.

When asked to comment on this development, SAPM Shahzad Akbar told Dawn, “I didn’t have any contact with Kaveh prior to October 2019. David made me meet him — it wasn’t a secret meeting.”

Mr Akbar said he has no knowledge about any request for commission.

Later on Geo anchor Shahzeb Khanzada’s show, Mr Akbar said Mr Rose is his friend and has known him for six years.

Mr Moussavi in the past has accused the Sharifs, former president Asif Ali Zardari, Gen Musharraf, an unnamed general and an unidentified individual of bribery, kickbacks and selective accountability. He has also criticised Mr Khan and his cabinet for apathy and an ‘insincere’ accountability drive. The government has formed a commission to probe the Broadsheet saga.

Mr Rose’s publication the Mail on Sunday is currently in the midst of a defamation suit filed by Shehbaz Sharif, who said the journalist has wrongly accused him of corruption.

The paper alleged in a 2019 story that Shehbaz misappropriated UK taxpayers’ money, in particular government aid intended for the victims of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Shehbaz denies the charges and has demanded a retraction, an apology and damages.

After the story was published, the PML-N president accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government of feeding ‘fake news’ to the Mail. He named Prime Minister Imran Khan and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar as having been behind the report and vowed to take legal action against the paper and the government officials. At the time, the PM’s aide had dismissed Mr Sharif’s remarks about the ‘politically-motivated story’, and said he was willing to place evidence of the alleged corruption before London courts.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2021

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