Sunday May 12, 2019
WASHINGTON/LONDON: Renewed talks allegedly initiated on instruction of the government between the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Broadsheet LLC collapsed after a top Pakistani official and a fixer claiming to be acting on behalf of the Pakistani authorities allegedly demanded commission and kickbacks from the firm.
Broadsheet LLC was hired by Pervez Musharraf to investigate money-laundering and corruption by politicians and retired and serving government officials and recently it was awarded over $21 million against NAB.
The News learnt about the negotiations through documents exchanged late last month between the NAB, Pakistani authorities and Broadsheet LLC via their respective counsels as well as sources aware of the doomed talks.
An email sent to the NAB and the Pakistani authorities on March 21 by Broadsheet’s Washington-based legal counsel shows that the two sides had held several meetings in which a Singapore-based bank account was mentioned that allegedly belonged to the Sharif family. No evidence was shown to the Pakistani side that the actual account belonged to any member of the Sharif family by the Broadsheet, said a Pakistani source. The source confirmed that meetings took place in London after a representative of the Broadsheet LLC claimed to have proofs of the bank account but no evidence was shown.
Papers show that in late summer last year, following the quantum hearing in London at the offices of the International Arbitration Council where the NAB lost case to Broadsheet, the firm's executive was approached by Zafar Ali QC, a London-based barrister, to discuss a potential joint effort to further pursue assets of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif allegedly located outside Pakistan. Zafar Ali QC boasted to the firm that he had direct contacts with some important ministers, NAB and some other officials.
The note titled 'Confidential Settlement Communication', shared with The News through the source, stated that Zafar Ali QC wanted to set terms of the settlement.
A source in the firm confirmed the exchange and particularly a note sent to Pakistani authorities. The note explains that the firm was approached by individuals claiming to be acting on behalf of NAB and Pakistani authorities to probe further into foreign bank accounts of the Sharif family. The negotiations between the two sides happened at the same time when the NAB and Pakistani authorities were in the process of settling an award of more than 21 million dollars in favour of the firm ordered by the London Arbitration Judge Sir Anthony Evans. The NAB's law firm Allen & Overy has now taken the case to London High Court against the award and wants the costs and award price reduced. Broadsheet is contesting the appeal.
In one of the communications to relevant officials in Pakistan, the firm alleged 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.
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."
The legal note explained that the Broadsheet's UK-based executive Mr Kaveh Moussavi was told by Zafar Ali during their meeting in London that Mr Ali was acting with instructions from most important ministers and some other officials.
According to the note: "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 [minister’s name] I will do the same. Tomorrow morning we can finalize the approach...”
On August 5, Mr Ali sent Mr Moussavi a text message while in Pakistan: "I have a meeting with [minister] tomorrow or Tuesday and a follow up one with [another minister]. . . Need this point by point submission today. We are close .. tantalisingly 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 claimed to have been alerted, via its high level contacts, that just under one billion dollars had left an ME country by wire transfer to a bank account in Southeast Asia on the order of Nawaz Sharif.
Moussavi understood that putting forward such bona fide details about Sharif-related corrupt assets could greatly serve the interests of Pakistan 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.
Following that, Mr Moussavi and Mr Ali had another meeting where Mr Ali assured Mr Moussavi that he had discussed the matter with the Pakistani authorities.
After which, at Mr Ali's request, the firm's lawyers at 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 alleged Sharif-related funds. These draft agreements were sent to Mr Ali by Mr Moussavi on 6 October, according to the legal note.
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 acting on behalf of Pakistani authorities.
According to the legal note, "Mr Malek", as he called himself, Met Mr Moussavi in Hampstead on 13 October at the Cafe Rouge.
Mr Malek told Mr Moussavi, according to the note, that Broadsheet was “wasting its time” with Mr Ali because others in Pakistan were now managing the case and could close the deal on the two new agreements.
According to the Broadsheet note, Mr Malek “categorically stated to Mr Moussavi that Broadsheet could get both agreements signed and enforced - but only if his ‘cut’ was guaranteed."
Mr 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 statement by the government 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.
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 behaviour 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."
Zafar Ali QC confirmed to The News that he had visited Pakistan, held meetings with Mr Moussavi. “I was invited by the government of Pakistan. I met senior government minister but I cannot reveal names as it’s confidential. I advised the government on how to recover the looted money. I have been in touch with Mr Moussavi and we met a few times. I am not speaking to him anymore.”
When asked if he had sent the Broadsheet executive text messages claiming to be acting for the government, he confirmed communicating with him but didn’t go into detail of the exchanges.
When contacted, a government functionary termed the whole story a concoction and a figment of imagination.
He said that such propaganda was rife against the government to distract it from doing service to the people. He said that every other day political rivals of the government come up with a new made-up and baseless story to confuse people. He, however, said that they will investigate about the claims made in the story.
A Sharif family source said that the fact that Broadsheet and NAB failed to produce any corrupt money or corrupt assets in more than two decades, after spending millions of Pounds, was a proof that Sharif family members were never involved in money-laundering and has not been involved in receiving commissions or kickbacks. “Nawaz Sharif has faced one after another trial and a court has officially stated that he has not been ever involved in misuse of public money or received commissions or kickbacks,” said the source.
The source added that the NAB was wasting Pakistani taxpayers’ money by falling for the fancy tales of individuals who have their own interests of making money.