Saturday Jul 30, 2022
LONDON: The former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has defended Arif Naqvi after the Financial Times made explosive claims that the defunct Abraaj founder was involved in sending illegal political funds to Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, using an offshore company.
Speaking to a private channel, Imran Khan confirmed he has read the Financial Times article which made serious allegations of misuse and misappropriation of charitable funds.
Imran Khan defended Arif Naqvi and suggested that he was so successful and bright that he was brought down through a conspiracy.
Imran Khan linked Arif Naqvi’s rise and fall to that of Agha Hasan Abedi - the Pakistani who founded the Bank of Credit and Commercial International (BCCI) and saw its collapse after one of the biggest banking fraud scandals. Abidi’s bank collapsed and he was convicted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) court for fraud and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Supporters of Abidi have blamed a western conspiracy behind his fall.
Imran Khan said about the Karachi-born Abraaj founder that this was a tragic case.
Imran Khan said: “Arif Naqvi’s case is a tragic case. It’s a big tragedy. Arif Naqvi is facing allegations, these are only allegations and there has been no trial yet. My heart says Arif Naqvi was rising fast. We saw the BCCI collapsing in front of our eyes. It was emerging as a bank and I remember that it was providing jobs to Pakistanis all over the world. There were branches of the BCCI all over the world."
"There were minor issues of money laundering and the whole bank collapsed. They even had assets. As far as I know Arif Naqvi didn’t cause loss to anyone. Monies were returned to all the lenders and the case against him is over some irregularity. Arif Naqvi has yet to face the trial at the court. For me the tragedy is that here is a Pakistan who was going up and making progress in the world.”
Imran Khan accepted for the first time that Arif Naqvi had funded the PTI but added that there was no illegality. He said: “These funds came to our party accounts. There is a full money trail that these funds came through banking channels and we have everything disclosed and audited. This happened in 2012 and there was no case against Arif Naqvi at that time. The poor Arif Naqvi was charged in 2019. I am talking about 2012 when he was a bright star of Pakistan.”
The former prime minister said: “Arif Naqvi was Pakistan's rare kind of rising talent who would have benefited Pakistan more as he rose high. I have known him for around 25 years. As he made money and progressed, he developed his equity firm Abraaj. He then went into venture capital. He was set to benefit Pakistan and was helping Pakistanis a lot already. He was rising fast.
“Arif Naqvi gave a lot of money to the Shaukat Khanum Hospital. He used to live in Dubai and would always fund us for charity. In 2012 he organised two fundraising dinners for PTI; the one in London at his own ground (in Wootton) and then in Dubai he invited top businessmen. This is called political funding.”
Ahead of Imran Khan’s interview, the former Information Minister and PTI leader Fawad Chaudhary claimed that the “Israeli lobby” was behind the fall of Arif Naqvi and his equity firm Abraaj.
Blaming the Jewish state of Israel, Fawad Chaudhary said: “Arif Naqvi’s Abraaj had grown to the value of $14 billion. The Israeli lobby doesn’t like whenever a Muslim, in particular a Pakistani, rises in influence beyond a certain limit. The US has filed a case against Arif Naqvi and the case is that he has violated the US financial laws. The BCCI was closed over similar allegations. Why should we become part of this propaganda when we know that the Israeli lobby is behind all this.”
The former premier defended Arif Naqvi after the FT has revealed in an investigation that Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi’s Cayman Islands-incorporated company Wootton Cricket Ltd was used to bankroll Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) after receiving funds from companies and individuals including at least £2mn in April 2013 from an influential Arab figure.
The FT revealed that Naqvi hosted a cricket ornament at his country estate in the Oxfordshire village of Wooton from 2010 to 2012 and used the proceeds from the charity fundraisers to bankroll Imran Khan’s party.
The FT, quoting bank statements, claimed that Naqvi transferred as many as three instalments directly to PTI in 2013 adding to a total of around $2.2 million.
The guests who participated in the Wootan T20 Cup, which Imran Khan also attended, were asked to contribute £25000 each to attend and it said the money will go to “philanthropic causes”. The report said the money was paid to Wooden cries Ltd, a Cayman Island incorporated company owned by Naqvi.
This paper had reported on 27 November 2021 in a detailed report that while Arif Naqvi is running from one court to another in London to avoid being extradited to the US for trial, nobody in the PTI government including the then PM and the President – Imran Khan and Arif Alvi with whom he was the closest – had offered him any kind of help or solace. In fact, this reporter had learnt that the senior PTI leader blocked his number and never communicated with him soon after his arrest in April 2019 in London by the Scotland Yard on the US request.
Arif Naqvi faces extradition to the US from London and nearly 300 years in prison on charges levelled by US authorities of white-collar crimes which he denies vehemently. Before securing his bail after his sons managed to move a mountain by arranging a £15 million bail surety – the highest ever bail guarantee in the UK’s judicial history – Arif Naqvi spent around four months in the top security Wandsworth Jail but not once any kind of diplomatic or counsellor help was offered to him by the Pakistani government despite the fact that Naqvi’s lawyers approached the Pakistani government to help its own citizen. Arif Naqvi’s wife and sons have British passports but Naqvi has always kept his green Pakistani passport.