WASHINGTON: Broadsheet LLC, a firm hired by Pakistan in the past to investigate money laundering and corruption has assessed that the Imran Khan government is striking a deal to release Nawaz Sharif from prison in return for a turn-over of some one billion dollars stashed away in a Singapore based bank.
The claim came to light through documents that were exchanged in late March between the National Accountability Bureau, the Pakistani government and Broadsheet LLC via their respective counsels. The documents explain that the firm was approached by individuals claiming to be acting on behalf of the NAB and Imran Khan government to probe further into foreign bank accounts of the Sharif family. This happened all the while when the NAB and Pakistani authorities were in the process of settling an award of more than 21 million dollars in favor of the firm ordered by Arbitration judge Sir Anthony Evans. The NAB’s law firm Allen & Overy has now taken the case to London High Court against the decision.
In addition to this, the firm also alleged in the note that the new deal between the firm and the representatives collapsed because certain elements from Pakistan wanted to solicit bribes and unlawful kickbacks out of it.
Details of the conundrum were thoroughly mentioned in the lengthy note that was sent to the NAB and the Pakistani government on March 21 via email through their Washington based legal counsel. By that time, the two sides had held several meetings in which a Singapore based bank account, that apparently belonged to the Sharif family bearing around one billion dollars, was mentioned.
The note titled ‘Confidential Settlement Communication’, shared with this correspondent, informed the NAB and the Pakistani government that in late summer last year, following the quantum hearing in London, the firm’s executive was approached by Zafar Ali QC, a UK based barrister, to discuss a potential joint effort to pursue corrupt assets of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif located outside Pakistan. Zafar Ali boasted that he had direct contacts with the new prime minister Imran Khan, cabinet members, the NAB and even with the top brass of the military leadership.
According to the note, “Mr Ali proposed that Broadsheet settle the dispute for a considerable sum and also enter into a Cooperation Agreement to jointly pursue Sharif corrupt assets located outside Pakistan in return for a commission similar to the original ARA that gave rise to the dispute.” It further said the proposal was considered highly significant that the Sharif corrupt assets could well exceed one billion dollars, which would have benefited the people of Pakistan as well as providing a success fee to Broadsheet if it was able to achieve the success anticipated by the new Cooperation Agreement.
It explained that at the first meeting Broadsheet’s representative, Mr Kaveh Moussavi was told by Mr Zafar Ali that he was acting with instructions from the newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan. Mr Ali also said he was acting for the Finance Minister, the ISI and the Attorney General. “Following their initial meeting on 31 July 2018, Mr Ali sent Mr Moussavi a text message stating: “Would you please compile a bullet point agenda for my meeting with Khan (i.e. the new prime minister Imran khan) I will do the same. Tomorrow morning, we can finalize the approach…”
The note explaining the progress states that on August 5, Mr Ali sent Mr Moussavi a text message while in Pakistan: “I have a meeting with the finance minister tomorrow or Tuesday and a follow up one with IK (Imran Khan, PM). From the meeting I have already had I perceived IK trusts no one other than Asad Umer. Need this point by point submission today. We are close tantalizingly close.”
On 6 August Mr Moussavi replied to Mr Ali: “I suggest you try and bring back some of the files on the Sharifs so we show the new team how effectively we can operate. We will trace, locate, freeze, seize and repatriate stolen assets before they have got their heads around how this is done.”
The note chalked up by Broadsheet LLC ‘s Washington based lawyers said that the firm made the offer as part of the proposed cooperation agreement because it was alerted, via its high level contacts in Saudi Arabia, that just under one billion dollars had left Saudi by wire transfer to a bank account in Southeast Asia to the order of Nawaz Sharif. It said that in some texts back and forth Mr Moussavi provided additional details about the Sharif-related transfer of funds from Saudi Arabia to an un-named bank in Singapore.
“Mr Moussavi understood that putting forward such bona fide details about Sharif-related corrupt assets could greatly serve the interests of Pakistan as well as the agenda of Prime Minister Khan to fight corruption at the highest levels. Moreover, it would enhance the good faith efforts of the parties to resolve the pending London dispute and work together going forward in a positive and transparent manner,” the note added.
On 16 August Mr Moussavi and Mr Ali had another meeting where Mr Ali assured Mr Moussavi that he had discussed the matter with the Attorney General, the Law minister, the finance minister and prime minister Imran Khan. Mr Ali also reported to Mr Moussavi, that Prime Minister Khan had told Mr Ali that NAB was “useless” and could not do the work anticipated by the proposed cooperation agreement.
After which, at Mr Ali’s request, the firm’s lawyers, Crowell & Moring, drafted two agreements by October 6 reflecting the discussions between Mr Ali and Mr. Moussavi. A settlement agreement to resolve the London Arbitration and a new Cooperation Agreement to jointly pursue the Sharif-related corrupt funds. These draft agreements were sent to Mr Ali by Mr Moussavi on 6 October.
The twist came when, as the note claims, a delegation of Pakistani officials travelled to London for meetings with British authorities in October last year. The note further asserted that the firm executive was told of the arrival of the delegation by a “Mr Malek, who claimed he was part of the military investigations branch of ISI.”
“Thereafter, Mr Moussavi met Major General “Malek”, as he called himself, in Hampstead on 13 October at the Cafe Rouge. General Malek was extremely well informed about the entire Broadsheet situation and the two draft agreements, as well as the Sharif funds in Singapore. General Malek told Mr Moussavi that Broadsheet was ‘wasting its time’ with Mr. Ali because others in the Pakistani government were now managing the case and could close the deal on the two new agreements,” the note said.
According to the Broadsheet note, “General Malek categorically stated to Mr Moussavi that Broadsheet could get both agreements signed and enforced.” The note added, “He also specifically stated that the military and ISI were keen to revive the Reko Diq mining contract for their own benefit and any information Mr Moussavi could provide on that related matter would give them leverage to settle that arbitration. He told Mr Moussavi that substantial “rewards” would be paid if he assisted the in that matter.”
It also said that turning to the Broadsheet matter and the new agreements, General Malek stated: “People are wondering why you should make 25 billion dollars out of the contract we are giving you?” When asked what he meant, he stated that he was referring to the new prime minister’s public statements that 100 billion dollars had been looted from the country and that the proposed new cooperation agreements envisaged a 25 per cent commission on monies repatriated to Pakistan. The meeting ended abruptly and the two-agreement proposal collapsed.
After which, Broadsheet’s counsel informed the NAB and the government about the situation with their assessment that “our understanding is that the new agreements were not signed because Mr Moussavi refused to agree to the requests to pay bribes and kickbacks. We also understand that the Sharif funds remain in the Singapore bank account and are the subject of on-going discussions between Sharif and the government to release him from prison in return for a turn-over of some of those funds,” the note concluded.
In response to the note sent to the NAB, its counsel responded via email on April 9 that “my clients do not see any connection between the allegations contained in your document of 21 March and any settlement discussions.”
The NAB’s counsel categorically denied what was told in the note saying, “With regard to those allegations, my clients have no knowledge of those matters and any allegations of illegal behavior on the part of my clients are denied. My clients are under no obligation to provide a “detailed response” and, given their lack of knowledge, it is hard to see what detail they could provide in any event.”
The response further added that, “With regard to settlement discussions, as I have explained previously, in order for these to progress it would greatly assist if your client were to put forward a slightly more realistic offer than the one put forward to date. I am instructed that if you are able to offer something more constructive, we can set up a meeting with the relevant people at short order to discuss settlement.”