• Asset recovery firm paid the amount after failed bid to attach Avenfield properties to its claim
• Inquiry commission summons Broadsheet record from NAB

LONDON/ISLAMABAD: Asset recovery firm Broadsheet LLC was made to pay GBP20,000 (amounting to Rs4.5 million) to the Sharifs in litigation costs this week as part of the costs owed by the company for withdrawing its claim to the family’s Avenfield apartments.

The receipt of the payment by Broadsheet was confirmed by the legal representatives of the Sharif family. The development is the latest episode in the Broadsheet saga, in which the company made several attempts to secure the payment of $29 million from the Pakistan government as awarded to it by an English court in 2018. 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.

Since then, the firm attempted to secure the payment for its services by targeting several entities in the UK with purported links to the Pakistan government. In the same period that it laid a claim to four Avenfield House flats, Broadsheet LLC also wrote to the Pakistan government and threatened to “seize the assets of the Pakistani cricket team” to recover the outstanding funds owed by NAB.

Earlier, it was reported that in its effort to recover the payment from the Pakistan government, Broadsheet’s lawyers even approached the Sharif legal team for assistance.

The law firm representing the Sharifs denied assistance to Broadsheet in its enquiries.

Claim on Avenfield House

On June 19, 2020, Broadsheet approached the High Court with a plea to attach four apartments in Avenfield House through an Interim Charging Order as part of the recovery of money owed to it by the government of Pakistan and NAB. The company had argued that NAB held beneficial interests in the Avenfield Apartments pursuant to the court’s Avenfield reference judgement in July 2018. A Charging Order is a court order that essentially gives a creditor security for their debt.

The Sharif lawyers contested this claim, and said that the accountability court judgement did not vest any interest in the Avenfield Apartments to either the government of Pakistan or NAB and that it was, therefore, incapable of being enforced by the UK High Court.

On Dec 2, 2020 — mere weeks before Broadsheet secured its payment through a third party debt order which drew the outstanding $29 million payment from the Pakistan High Commission’s bank account in the UK — its solicitors withdrew the case from the High Court.

The Court made an order on the same day discharging the Avenfield Apartments. As a result of this, Broadsheet was bound to pay the Sharifs’ legal costs. According to the general rule in litigation of civil cases, the losing party pays the successful party’s legal costs.

“Our client could have claimed higher amounts from Broadsheet. However, in view of additional recovery costs and the uncertainties due to Broadsheet’s liquidation, they chose to accept the settlement,” read a statement drafted by Sharifs’ lawyers.

Broadsheet LLC was registered in the Isle of Man on June 20, 2000 and helped the Musharraf government and the newly-established NAB track down foreign assets purchased through alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Owned since the mid-2000s by Iranian-born former Oxford University academic Kaveh Moussavi, Broadsheet now stands liquidated. Moussavi, who was not initially involved with the company when it entered into an agreement with the Musharraf government, later funded the arbitration. He served a year-long prison sentence in England for contempt of court in unrelated proceedings.

Broadsheet maintains that it was created to be a company specialising in the recovery of assets and funds, and was, therefore, engaged to trace, locate and transfer such items back to the State.

A lawyer associated with the company earlier told Dawn that the Sharifs were the “top target” of the Broadsheet investigation. Its contract was terminated in 2003 by NAB.

In Islamabad, a one-member inquiry commission comprising retired Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed on Tuesday summoned the record related to UK-based firm Broadsheet from NAB.

The commission had summoned three federal secretaries along with the relevant record. They have been directed to appear with the record regarding matters relating to the terms of references of the commission.

However, the secretaries have requested for further time for giving complete record to the commission.

The commission has so far recorded statements of four former chairmen of NAB. In addition, statements of a former deputy High Commissioner, Pakistan’s High Commission in London, former joint secretary in the Ministry of Law and Justice and a few other officers/persons, who were associated with Broadhseet matter, have also been recorded.

The witnesses have been further directed by the commission that they might be required to appear again before the commission as and when needed, a statement issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice said.

It may be mentioned that amid resistance of the opposition parties, the federal government has formed the one-man commission comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat.

The Cabinet Division on Jan 29 issued the notification for the commission of inquiry along with its terms of references. According to the notification, the commission has been empowered to constitute committees consisting of government officials and experts.

The commission is examining into the contracts signed by NAB with Broadsheet LLC and other international asset recovery (IAR) firms to unearth foreign assets made by Pakistanis through ill-gotten money.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2021

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