Anomalies spotted in disbursement of $1.5m to Broadsheet: report

Published March 23, 2021
The commission was formed to probe the execution of contract and payments to Broadsheet LLC in connection with investigation into offshore properties of Pakistani politicians. — AFP/File
The commission was formed to probe the execution of contract and payments to Broadsheet LLC in connection with investigation into offshore properties of Pakistani politicians. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A report of the one-man inquiry commission comprising retired Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh found anomalies in disbursement of $1.5 million to UK-based firm Broadsheet as the record of payment was missing in the ministries and departments concerned.

The commission was formed to probe the execution of contract and payments to Broadsheet LLC in connection with investigation into offshore properties of Pakistani politicians.

The law ministry’s spokesperson confirmed that the report had been sent to the PM Office. She, however, did not disclose the contents of the report, saying that the Broadsheet commission was working independently and was not under any obligation to share its details with the ministry.

The commission’s registrar disconnected the phone call when approached by Dawn.

The 61-page document contains statements of 26 witnesses

The government sources, on the other hand, revealed that the commission had highlighted discrepancies in the payment of $1.5 million to the UK-based firm and the report also enabled the federal government to de-seal the 12 diplomatic cartons containing the record related to Swiss accounts.

In 2009, then Pakistani high commissioner in the United Kingdom Wajid Shamsul Hasan had reportedly received the 12 cartons comprising original documents and evidence against some Pakistani high-ups in Swiss money laundering case.

In January this year, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar informed the Senate that the Pakistan Peoples Party government had in 2008 made a payment of $1.5m to an unknown firm which he termed a ‘wrong firm’.

The commission completed the probe on Monday and submitted its report to the Prime Minister Office.

The report has 61 pages and about 500 more pages are annexed to the report as documents and statements of witnesses.

During the six-week inquiry, the commission recorded statements of 26 witnesses, including four former chairmen of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), ­which included three former three-star generals namely retired Lt Gen Mohammad Amjad, Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool and Lt Gen Munir Hafeez. The commission also recorded the statement of former NAB chairman Naveed Ahsan. Former and incumbent federal secretaries also testified before the commission.

The sources said that the report highlighted that the record of payment of $1.5m to Broadsheet was not available with the finance ministry, law ministry, the office of the Attorney General of Pakistan and the Pakistan High Commission in the UK.

They said the commission had termed it cheating and defrauding the state.

The commission has also recommended that the government is at liberty to de-seal the record of the Swiss accounts against former president and co-chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari and this may be referred to NAB for further necessary action.

Initially, an inquiry committee was for­med to probe the Broadsheet saga, but later the inquiry commission was constituted following an approval by the federal cabinet.

The main objective of the committee was to investigate reports of 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.

The Cabinet Division had on Jan 29 issued a notification about 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 federal cabinet agreed to form the one-man commission under the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2017, with a broader mandate.

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

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2021

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