Arbitrator in London hears claims against Pakistan

Arbitrator in London hears claims against Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: An international arbitration body based in United Kingdom has heard plea of an international assets recovery firm seeking from Pakistan billions of rupees in damages.

Starting from July 16, the International Arbitration heard for four days a claim by the Broadsheet LLC, against Pakistan and its anticorruption body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), at the London office of Allen & Overy, said the law firm representing NAB.

Former English Court of Appeal judge Sir Anthony Evans QC heard the case as sole arbitrator in a London-seated proceeding under the rules of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

According to the Global Arbitration Review (GAR), the firm’s claim against Pakistan is worth at least US $600 million but a senior official told The Express Tribune that the claim is $316 million.

The Broadsheet LLC, based in the Isle of Man, was hired by NAB during Musharraf regime to trace out hidden assets of Pakistanis in foreign countries. NAB signed agreement with the Broadsheet but terminated it in 2003.

In August, 2016, the same international tribunal held that Pakistan is liable to pay damages as NAB wrongfully repudiated an asset recovery agreement with the Broadsheet and committed a tort of civil conspiracy by entering into a sham settlement with a former Broadsheet executive.

SC to hear international firm’s plea seeking Volume 10 of JIT

According to GAR report, the tribunal ruled that the Broadsheet was entitled to damages in an amount to be determined. The Broadsheet is represented by Stuart Newberger of Crowell & Moring in Washington, DC.

GAR reveals that in its quantum claim in the arbitration, the Broadsheet is relying in part on information gathered by a joint investigation team (JIT) established by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to examine evidence concerning the Sharif family’s holdings.

The Broadsheet has submitted a forensic report by expert firm, Stroz Friedberg, analysing those parts of the JIT report that are public, while Pakistan has submitted a counter-report prepared by the FTI Consulting.

The claimant has also petitioned the Supreme Court to unseal volume 10 of the JIT report that could potentially serve as a basis for further damages claims. The apex court has scheduled a hearing on that plea on July 30.

GAR says the Broadsheet’s dispute with NAB has a convoluted and colourful history. The company was established by Colorado businessman Jerry James and entered liquidation proceedings in the Isle of Man in 2005, before being dissolved and then revived.

Meanwhile Jerry James established a Colorado company of the same name and negotiated an agreement with NAB in 2008 that purported to settle the dispute for US$2.25 million, which NAB paid. He died in 2011, reportedly by jumping from the fifth-floor balcony of a Paris hotel.

Firm seeking Volume 10 told to submit papers

In his award on liability in 2016, the international tribunal judge Sir Anthony Evans upheld the Broadsheet’s arguments that the 2008 settlement was not binding on it, as Jerry James had no authority to act on the company’s behalf at the time.

He also found that NAB was liable for the tort of conspiring to cause unlawful economic loss to the Broadsheet because of its ‘reckless’ conduct in entering into the settlement when it knew the company’s liquidator was not a party to the negotiations.

Judge Evans also upheld the Broadsheet’s reading of the asset recovery agreement as entitling it to 20% of any assets recovered from the targets, regardless of whether the assets were located in Pakistan or abroad.

A senior official reveals that final decision is expected to be issued the next year. However, the recent round of hearing was good from Pakistan’s point of view.

The next government will have to deal with the fallout of major legal battles in world legal forums, paying billions of dollars in damages in several controversial matters, especially in Broadsheet, Karkey and Reko Diq cases. It is expected that final verdict in these three cases will be issued next year.

Currently, Pakistan is facing 32 cases of different nature at international courts. Even some independent power producers (IPPs) have also filed cases with international arbitrators seeking clearance of their pending dues, which amount to more than a trillion of rupees.

“Where will this money come from? Our economy is already in bad shape,” a senior official wondered. APP/AFP