By Arshad Sharif
Islamabad, January 15: Successive governments and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) made questionable payments of atleast US $32 Million to different companies in Broadsheet scam from 2008 till now without challenging the re-instatement of companies which were dissolved in 2007.
Government of Pakistan (GoP) also paid millions of dollars as fees to the lawyers in addition to the US$32 Million questionable payments to Broadsheet which had links to a few important people in Pakistani power corridors. How many million dollars have been paid to lawyers internationally and locally by GoP and NAB remains a well-guarded secret in the scam.
“I had been requesting the relevant people to challenge the re-instatement order of Broadsheet in Isle of Man but no one was interested,” said a well-placed source, adding, “unless the money is distributed, how will people get their share.”
Disbursement of atleast US $32 Million include payment of US $1.5 Million to Broadsheet, $2.2 to International Asset Recovery (IAR) and US$ 28 Million to reinstated Broadsheet.
“In addition to US$1,500,000 paid to or to order of Mr. James under the Settlement Agreement, NAB paid US$2,250,000 in settlement of the claims by IAR, also in about 2008,” reads an order of settlement in the case.
The first tranche of questionable payments were made when Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was in power, Navid Ahsan was Chairman NAB and Sardar Latif Khosa was Attorney General of Pakistan.
Sardar Latif Khosa later represented Broadsheet LLC in Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2018 to seek access to Volume 10 of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report to be used to assess the quantum of damages sought in the international arbitration.
Who actually owns Broadsheet LLC, an offshore company, is a question which has baffled Pakistani officialdom. The multi-million dollar question finds mention in a communication sent by Broadsheet’s lawyers, Crowell & Moring LLP, to Pakistani authorities in March 2019 in the following words”
“Mr. Ali informed Mr. Moussavi that people in Pakistan wanted to “know who he is” after dealing with him for years, and whether Broadsheet was being funded by Zardari and the Bhutto Family. Mr. Moussavi told Mr. Ali that was nonsense, that he had no connection whatsoever with Zardari, and never would, and that in his view Mr.Ali was being pushed aside by others in Pakistan eager to pursue the Sharif funds in Singapore for themselves.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan has recently ordered an investigation to find how the Broadsheet case was mishandled by previous governments resulting in penalty of millions of dollars against Pakistan.
It is surprising that settlement was made with Broadsheet without due diligence by GoP and NAB in 2008 despite the fact that the company was dissolved in April 2007. The fact finds mention in the settlement order in following words:
“In April 2007, when Broadsheet (IoM) was formally dissolved, negotiations were in progress between NAB, represented by their lawyer, Mr. Soofi, and Mr. James’s former associates representing another company, IAR, which had made an agreement similar to the ARA (but relating to other parts of the World) in 2000 at about the same time as he entered into the ARA on behalf of Broadsheet.
In addition, Mr. James began to negotiate a Settlement Agreement with NAB represented by Mr. Soofi representing that he, Mr. James, was authorised to represent Broadsheet, notwithstanding (and without disclosing) that the company was in liquidation and was recently formally dissolved.
His purpose in doing this can readily be inferred from the facts that at about this time he formed a new Colorado company, also called Broadsheet, which he represented was a successor to Broadsheet IoM. When the Settlement Agreement was signed on 20 May 2008 it provided that NAB would make payments totaling US$1,500,000, in settlement of claims made under the ARA, not to Broadsheet IoM or its Liquidator but to Broadsheet Colorado which Mr. James controlled and in effect to him personally. When these facts became known to Mr. Moussavi, he took steps to have the dissolution of Broadsheet set aside. A new Liquidator was appointed who has authorised these arbitration proceedings against NAB (Notice of Arbitration was given on 23 October 2009).
The Settlement Agreement was authorised for NAB by an executive decision in which Mr. Soofi was not involved. There is no evidence as to who the decision makers were. The Governor of NAB at that time was Mr. Ahsan.”
The settlement order gives details about dissolution of Broadsheet, raising fundamental question why re-instatement was not challenged in Isle of Man either by GoP or NAB.
“When the ARA terminated in Oct./Dec.2003, Broadsheet was a trading company registered in the Isle of Man. Mr. James was its executive chairman and controlling shareholder. Mr. Tisdale was involved in its affairs by virtue of being Mr. James’s legal adviser, and Mr. Tariq Fawad Malik effectively was its local representative in Pakistan. On 19 May 2003, the company’s former legal adviser in Jersey obtained a default judgment for outstanding fees in the sum of about £29,000 (“the Sinel judgement”). On 1 April 2004 the Sinel judgment was registered against Broadsheet in the Isle of Man. Winding-up proceedings against the Company based on non-payment of the judgment debt were commenced in the Isle of Man in February 2005 and a Winding-up Order was made on 2-7 March 2005. On 2 April 2007 the company was formally dissolved. Meanwhile, Mr. James remained active in business and/or financial affairs in the USA. On 4 January 2005 he purported to assign to a Colorado company, Steeplechase Financial Services LLC, “all his right, title and interest in … connection with [the ARA]” signing the Assignment as chairman of Broadsheet and ‘Manager’ of Broadsheet. He did not notify NAB of the Assignment nor did he communicate with the Liquidator who was appointed in the Isle of Man shortly afterwards, in February/March 2005.”
Interestingly enough, when the questionable payments were made a year later to a company dissolved in 2007, the damage claims were again accepted in 2009.
Second payment of atleast US $28 million was facilitated in December 2020 when Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf led by Prime Minister Imran Khan was in office.
A senior government official with knowledge of the case said a number of questions need to be answered as to who facilitated payments to Broadsheet once again in December 2020 when clear instructions were given by Attorney General office to keep “bare minimum” cash in accounts of Pakistani missions abroad.
Public Accounts Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee of National Assembly of Pakistan have ordered probe in the broadsheet scam.
Answers to a few of the following questions can expose a few characters who facilitated payment of atleast US $28 million to Broadsheet through Pakistan High Commission bank account in London:
1. Why such a big amount was lying in Pakistan High Commission’s account when arbitration was ongoing and instructions were passed to keep bare minimum cash in bank accounts for official use?
2. When the amount of US $28 million was transferred to High Commission’s account and for what purpose? Who authorized transfer of funds to account of High Commission?
3. What had been the average Monthly balance in High Commission’s account during last 36 months?
4. How Broadsheet came to know about huge balance in High Commission’s account and specific account number to ensure implementation of damages claim?
5. Why diplomatic immunity was not invoked and if invoked at what stage and when?
6. Does it prima facie not seem an arranged and corroborative move to facilitate Broadsheet to recover the money?