Calls the institution ‘a conspiracy to defraud Pakistanis’
Broadsheet CEO Kaveh Mousavi has rebutted the claims made by the Pakistani government, particularly its National Accountability Bureau, following the seizure of $28.7 million from the Pakistan High Commission’s account in London.
He was speaking to Pakistani journalist Irfan Hashmi in a video uploaded on YouTube Monday.
UK-based firm Broadsheet LLC was hired in 2000 by General Pervez Musharraf’s government to recover assets stolen by the past Pakistani governments. The contract expired in 2003 and the firm alleged it was not paid. It sued Pakistan in the London Court of International Arbitration in 2016 and won an award of $21 million in 2019.
Islamabad appealed the decision in the London High Court and the award was increased to $33 million. UK authorities recently seized $28.7 million from the Pakistan High Commission’s account and the rest remains payable.
Mousavi said NAB is lying to the people of Pakistan about how much money Broadsheet found and recovered. The anti-corruption watchdog repeatedly tried to protect various individuals from being investigated, he added.
Asked who engaged Broadsheet and what was the objective, Mousavi said his group was approached in 2000 and one of his associates negotiated with lawyers representing Musharraf’s government to recover stolen assets.
“The list initially shared with us appeared politically-inspired, focused only on Nawaz Sharif,” he said. “We refused to be part of a political witch-hunt and to Musharraf’s credit, he agreed to expand the list to include all who have stolen from Pakistan.”
After initial investigation, this list grew to 200 people and their companies, according to the Broadsheet LLC. Notable on this list were the Bhutto-Zardari families, the Sharif family and an individual who later went on to become the interior minister during the Sharif government in 2013.
“We insisted that the contract must contain a clause that the list of names could not be changed after the contract went into force,” Mousavi said. “Later events proved us correct in insisting on this clause.”
He said Musharraf appointed Lt General Muhammad Amjad as the NAB chairman. During this time, NAB was very cooperative and the investigation was going very well, according to the Broadsheet CEO.
“However, I wasn’t surprised when General Amjad was removed very quickly, because he was determined to clean up Pakistan,” he said. “I thought he was very naïve to think that.”
Mousavi said successive NAB leadership, including Lt General Khalid Maqbool and Lt Gen Munir Hafeez, presented evidence that was not acceptable to the court. “We also begun to receive open requests to exclude certain individuals from the target list,” he added.
The Broadsheet CEO said NAB sabotaged his firm’s efforts at every step.
“We had identified and frozen an account in New Jersey and asked NAB to seek release of the funds to Pakistan. You know what they did” he asked. “First, they removed the person’s name from the list of targets, then they released the funds to him and third, they appointed him home minister. Do I need to say any more?”
About the results Broadsheet delivered, Mousavi said they identified hundreds of millions of stolen dollars, possibly a billion, or even more.
“We found [Admiral Mansurul] Haq and worked with the FBI to extradite him and bring home hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “Contrary to what NAB is telling the people of Pakistan, [London High Court judge] Anthony Evans found that Broadsheet performed, it performed effectively and possibly, it was removed because it performed too effectively.
According to Mousavi, the judge found that NAB sabotaged Broadsheet’s efforts. “The judge said the government of Pakistan engaged in a conspiracy to defraud Broadsheet, disrupt its operations and prevent it from carrying out its duties,” he said. “So I’m not surprised that such an institution as NAB should come forward today and say that Broadsheet recovered nothing. It’s a straightforward lie.”
On Nawaz Sharif’s claims that he was exonerated in the matter of Avenfield apartments, the Broadsheet CEO said his firm did no such thing. “On the contrary, we have collected enough evidence to suggest that stolen funds were used to purchase the properties,” he said. “We didn’t pursue the matter after an accountability court in Pakistan made the same finding we did.”
Hashmi asked the Broadsheet CEO if he made any contact with the Pakistani governments or tried to pursue the payment they were owed after 2003.
“In 2008, Musharraf visited the Oxford Union and I asked him what happened,” Mousavi replied. He said that the Supreme Court had forced him to hold an election, in which all the crooks were re-elected. They came back to power and gutted NAB.
“We admitted the film of this conversation in court as evidence,” he said. “We gave up talking to the government when we saw that they brazenly lie.”
Mousavi accused NAB of openly asking Broadsheet not to investigate the names on the list and described the anti-corruption watchdog as a “conspiracy against the people of Pakistan”.
“Later, we found one such name [was] appointed home minister,” he said, questioning, “What would you do? Would you continue to talk to these people?”
The Broadsheet CEO said his firm was contacted by intermediaries on behalf of the Sharif family in 2012. They offered money to go away but the firm flatly refused to negotiate with crooks, he added.
Mousavi said the former PML-N government refused to honour the award after Broadsheet won the case against Pakistan in August 2016.
“They said we are going to appeal this,” he said. “It cost them $20 million to appeal the case, which they lost.”
“How many water filtration plants could this money buy in Pakistan, how many hospitals, how many schools,” he asked. “I have no doubt that these thieves were making money in commissions by awarding contracts to human rights lawyers.”