What is the ‘Broadsheet saga’?  

The Broadsheet saga is continuing to make headlines in the country as the head of the asset recovery firm has now claimed that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif offered them a bribe to abandon the probe against his foreign assets.

Broadsheet LLC, a UK company that was registered in Pervez Musharraf’s era, helped the then government and newly established National Accountability Bureau (NAB) track down foreign assets purchased by Pakistanis through alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Broadsheet CEO Kaveh Moussavi, in an interview, levelled serious allegations against Nawaz Sharif. Let’s take an in-depth review of the Broadsheet scandal.

The Scandal

Former president General Pervez Musharraf established National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which hired the firm to track down the foreign assets and ill-gotten wealth of Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats.

More than 200 prominent personalities were targeted by the Musharraf regime and many of the cases are still ongoing. Broadsheet was hired to trace, locate and transfer funds taken fraudulently from state institutions but the company failed to recover the funds.

The firm was to get 20 percent of the recovered amount.  Broadsheet was able to track down assets of some targeted individuals—the most prominent among them were Aftab Sherpao, Admiral (R) Mansoor-ul-Haq and his partners, Lt. Gen. (R) Zahid Ali Akbar, Schon Group and others.

NAB vs Broadsheet

The then NAB chairman demanded the closure of investigations against some personalities. The firm was to get 20% of the recovered amount but NAB terminated the contract in 2003 without following the due process that landed it into litigation.

The firm began pursuing legal action against NAB after it ended its contract in violation of the terms and conditions. The bureau was ordered by a London court to pay for damages, liabilities and interest accrued.

The London High Court’s Financial Division issued on December 17, 2020 a Final Third Party Order for payment to Broadsheet by December 30, 2020 — drawing the curtains on a case that has cost Pakistani taxpayers billions of rupees.

Pakistan then made a payment of $28.706 million (Rs4.59 billion) to the British firm after losing the long-running litigation at the London High Court.

The controversial interview

Broadsheet CEO Kaveh Moussavi, in a YouTube interview, claimed that a Sharif family member approached him in 2012 and offered him a bribe to drop the investigations. Moussavi claimed that the company had flatly refused the deal, in the year 2012, retorting that the Broadsheet did not negotiate with crooks.

“Sharif family has assets not only in the United Kingdom but across the globe,” he said, adding that the Sharif family required plenty of explanation about their resources of amassing these assets.

He said the process of accountability was continuing, but after President Musharraf left office, his successors started hampering the process by not giving access to information and termination of Broadsheet’s contract.

The CEO said Nawaz was behind the termination of the contract with Broadsheet which was investigating how hundreds of millions of dollars had been stolen from Pakistan and stashed abroad.

Tip of an iceberg: PM Imran

Prime Minister Imran Khan, commenting on the scandal, said the Panama papers exposed the corruption and money laundering of Pakistan’s ruling elite and now they have been exposed again after the Broadsheet revelations.

PM Khan said these elites cannot hide behind the “victimisation” card on these international revelations. “We want complete transparency from Broadsheet on our elites money laundering and on who stopped investigations,” he concluded.

Committee formed

Earlier on Tuesday, Minister for Information Shibli Faraz announced that an inter-ministerial committee formed to probe the Broadsheet LLC scandal.

Faraz said that the committee will not only minutely probe the fine points of the case, it will determine “how the country’s wealth was looted, and how the firm, after it made important discoveries, was approached by someone said to be Nawaz Sharif’s cousin to have the family’s name removed from the matter, after which the CEO said ‘we don’t deal with crooks'”.

The information minister said that those who “made a mockery out of the state institutions, hurt the nation’s wealth and dragged the country into litigation which has caused great embarrassment” will be dealt with after the committee shares its own findings “soon”.