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ISLAMABAD: The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountabi-lity, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, on Monday said that out of $21.5m paid to broadsheet, $20.5m was paid because of the Sharif family. Speaking at a presser, he elaborated on the details of the quantum award, explaining why the government had to pay $21.5 million to Broadsheet.

He said the details regarding the PML-N President, Shehbaz Sharif that he paid $7.3m to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) “and elsewhere he took kickbacks of $160m in highway taxes.”

“According to Broadsheet report, Shehbaz Sharif as Punjab chief minister had received commission/kickbacks of $160 million from the highway projects and $7.3 million from other deals,” he added.

Broadsheet LLC – a UK-based company that was registered in the Isle of Man during the Pervez Musharraf rule – had helped the then government and the newly-established NAB track down foreign assets purchased by Pakistanis through “ill-gotten” wealth.

“A price the nation had to pay because of the NROs given by the past regimes to the corrupt and it was imperative to disclose the identities of wrongdoers,” he added.

Broadsheet claimed that it was established to enter into an Asset Recovery Agreement dated June 20, 2000, and did so with the then president of Pakistan, through the NAB chairman, for the purposes of recovering funds and other assets fraudulently taken from the state and other institutions, including through corrupt practices, and held outside of Pakistan.

Broadsheet maintains that it was created to be a company specialising in the recovery of assets and funds, and was therefore engaged to trace, locate and transfer such items back to the state.

After the NAB terminated the contract in 2003, Broadsheet and another company involved as a third party filed for damages, saying Pakistan owed them money according to the terms agreed upon since the government was taking action to confiscate some of the assets they had identified, including the Avenfield property owned by the Sharif family.

The adviser said the Broadsheet lawyers argued in the court that the Sharifs were allowed to leave the country in 2000, despite the fact that they had “unearthed” proof of corruption against them.

Akbar said the accords were inked with Broadsheet and International Assets Recovery in June and July 2000, respectively, for detection of assets of some 200 Pakistani nationals, including Nawaz Shairf and Benazir Bhutto, abroad.

He said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif along with his family left for Saudi Arabia in December 2000 after striking a deal with General Pervez Musharraf (retd) while the agreement with Broadsheet was annulled by the NAB in October 2003.

The companies’ claims against Pakistan were held valid by an arbitration court and later by a UK high court that gave an award of over $28 million against Pakistan last year.

The adviser said the copies of the judgement against Pakistan in Broadsheet case are being made public, on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, in line with his belief that accountability cannot take place without transparency.

He said the government was making all relevant documents, judgement and awards in Broadsheet case available in the public domain as per its consistent and principled stance that transparency is paramount for the process of accountability.

“We represent the nation and came on this mandate of accountability, so it is PM Khan’s stance that for transparency, everything which should be in public access, the government should do it and make it available,” he added.

He said that two verdicts were being made public - the judgement for the liability award in 2016 and the judgement for the quantum award in 2018.

“The first confirmed the government of Pakistan was liable to pay Broadsheet and the second determined the actual amount of the liability to be paid,” he added.

On the orders of the Prime Minister, he added, the government had contacted Broadsheet's lawyers to gain their written consent on making these documents public, adding that they had no reservations over the move.

Shahzad Akbar said Pakistan was compelled to pay 20 percent of the detected amount stashed by the looters abroad to the Broadsheet without recovery of even a single penny.

The Broadsheet took the case to a London court for arbitration, which imposed a $21 million penalty on Pakistan for the assets of the corrupt detected by it, he added.

Pakistan was at a total loss as it had to pay the 20 percent of the total worth of the detected looted national wealth as per an agreement with Broadsheet, he added.

He said Broadsheet was paid twice - $2.25 million and $1.25 million in 2008 as two settlements agreements were signed with it.

However, the Broadsheet filed a petition in the London court in October 2009 seeking more money, which gave the verdict in its favour.

Pakistan filed an appeal against the decision, which was rejected in 2019.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government filed another appeal against the verdict in July 2019.

Broadsheet, he said, got interim court orders in June 2020 seeking seizure of Pakistan's assets in the UK, including the Avenfield apartments.

The interim orders were withdrawn, after Broadsheet received the payment in August 2020.

To a question, he appreciated the performance of the NAB for making record recoveries from the corrupt in the last two years.

He said the inter-ministerial committee had been mandated to furnish its recommendations about action on Broadsheet's findings within 48 hours.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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