On Monday, Mirza Shahzad Akbar Special Adviser to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Interior and Accountability shared the details of the judgements against Pakistan in the Broadsheet case. The move was made after Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the judgement to be released to the public. But what really is this case that spans over 20 years?
The Broadsheet saga started back in 2000 in the Musharraf era when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) hired Broadsheet LLC, which is a UK-based international assets recovery company which was registered in the tax haven of Isle of Man. The company was hired to track the illegally accumulated wealth of politicians and signed the Asset Recovery Agreement on June 20, 2000, on the terms that the company would get 20% of the value of recovered assets.
The investigation was dropped after the dictatorial regime decided to let the Sharif family leave for Saudi Arabia and the NAB cancelled the agreement with Broadsheet in 2003. The company filed a case for arbitration; the dispute arose on the payment of service fees.
Meanwhile, the company incidentally went bankrupt and was acquired by Kaveh Moussavi, an Iranian and former head of public interest law at Oxford University. Jerry James, the original owner of the company, registered another company in Colorado also under the name “Broadsheet”.
The Broadsheet, registered in the Isle of Man, claimed damages of $580m against the Pakistani government. The NAB, however, reached a settlement with the Colorado-based Broadsheet, paying $5m to “a representative of Broadsheet” in May 2008. The numbers cited for the payment made vary across different media platforms and political statements, ranging from $1.5-5 million.
The Broadsheet registered in the Isle of Man pursued the case on the basis that the payment was due to the company, and not the individual, hence the payment made by NAB has no legal standing in the case between this company and the Pakistani state. The company subsequently sent a notice in 2009 stating that Pakistan still owed money to the Broadsheet company headed by Kaveh Moussavi.
The hearing started in January of 2016 and the Pakistani government lost the case in August of the same year. The 2016 decision established that the government, in fact, did owe the company damages and till 2018 the court heard the case on the liability award determining how much damages the Pakistani government would pay the Broadsheet company. Before the 2018 elections, the court pronounced its decision which was challenged by the care-taker government.
In November 2018, the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) imposed a penalty of $17 million on NAB. Later, $3 million case cost was added and in March 2019 and the NAB was ordered to pay $20 million. However, the NAB and the Pakistani government failed to comply with the court order.
Then on 17 December 2020, the London High Court ordered the NAB to pay the foreign asset recovery firm by December 30, adding interest on the original amount, taking the total number up to $28.7 million. The Foreign Office lacks in-house international law experts and relies on the office of the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) for legal advice. The Foreign Office first contacted the AGP regarding the issue on December 29, a day before the court’s set date for the payment of damages.
Kaveh Moussavi has been very vocal on the media about the entire episode, he stated that the NAB engaged Broadsheet and signed an agreement to investigate 200 people
He further said that the government-owned them $100 million for investigating and recovery from 6 individuals. Furthermore, he claims that the firm had delivered proofs of Nawaz Sharif’s London Apartments in 2000. Broadsheet demanded $21.5 million for arranging proofs.
The Pakistan government paid $31 million in December 2020, including the interest payment.