FIA gets nod to probe NAB’s ‘negligence’ in Broadsheet case

Published November 20, 2021
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sign is seen outside its office in this file photo. — Photo via Radio Pakistan
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sign is seen outside its office in this file photo. — Photo via Radio Pakistan

• Law ministry opines agency can scrutinise anti-graft watchdog
• NAB had earlier challenged FIA’s jurisdiction

ISLAMABAD: The law ministry has given a go-ahead to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to proceed against the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) over its alleged negligence in the Broadsheet saga.

The federal cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, had formed a one-man commission comprising retired Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed in January this year to probe the execution of contract and payments to Broadsheet LLC in connection with investigation into the offshore properties of Pakistani politicians.

The commission completed the probe in March and submitted its report to the Prime Minister Office.

The federal cabinet in a subsequent meeting referred the matter to the FIA for thorough investigation.

NAB, on the other hand, challenged the FIA’s jurisdiction and initially wrote to the agency, asking it to stop the probe until the cabinet reconsidered its decision on assigning the Broadsheet case to the investigation agency.

The matter was then referred to the law ministry which opined that pursuant to the decision of the federal cabinet, the FIA had the authority to investigate the anti-graft watchdog.

When contacted, Law Secretary Raja Naeem confirmed that the ministry had furnished an opinion in this matter.

A member of the federal cabinet, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that since the Broadsheet case was related to NAB, its investigation could not have been assigned to the bureau.

He said the FIA had been asked to probe any negligence on the part of the anti-graft watchdog and also fix responsibility on the negligent officials.

It may be mentioned that Pakistan made a payment of $28.706 million to the British firm, Broadsheet LLC, after losing the long-running litigation in the London High Court.

The amount was transferred from the Pakistan High Commission on behalf of NAB to the assets recovery firm — 21 years after it was hired to trace the alleged foreign assets of dozens of Pakistanis which it failed to find.

Broadsheet, which was owned by Iranian-born former Oxford University academic Kaveh Moussavi since the mid-2000s, 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 also served a year-long prison sentence in England for contempt of court in unrelated proceedings.

Broadsheet maintains that it was created as 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.

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 Pakistani government.

In July 2019, the government appealed the arbitration, but was unsuccessful in its bid.

The arbitrator found that Pakistan and NAB had wrongfully repudiated an asset recovery agreement with Broadsheet and ruled that the company was entitled to damages.

Since then, the asset recovery firm has attempted to secure the payment for its services by targeting several entities in the UK with purported links to the Pakistani government.

Broadsheet laid a claim to four Avenfield flats, though the claim was later discharged by the court. Broadsheet LLC also wrote to the Pakistani government and threatened to “seize the assets of the Pakistani cricket team” to recover the outstanding funds owed by anti-graft watchdog.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2021

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