As the verdict in the foreign funding case of the PTI remains to be announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), UK’s Financial Times has made shocking revelations regarding this case and found that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was the direct beneficiary of foreign funding poured into its accounts via tycoon Arif Naqvi’s Abraaj.
The Financial Times (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 UAE government minister who is also a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.
How it all happened?
The report said that Arif Naqvi invited cricket superstar Imran Khan and hundreds of bankers, lawyers and investors to his walled country estate in the Oxfordshire village of Wootton for weekend sports.
But what made Naqvi’s charity fundraiser was the fact that the ultimate benefactor was a political party in Pakistan.
“The fees were paid to Wootton Cricket Ltd, which, despite the name, was, in fact, a Cayman Islands-incorporated company owned by Naqvi and the money was being used to bankroll Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Khan’s political party,” the report said.
It must be noted that Pakistan forbids foreign nationals and companies from funding political parties. But, Abraaj’s emails and internal documents, including a bank statement covering the period between February 28 and May 30 2013, for a Wootton Cricket account in the UAE, show that “both companies and foreign nationals, as well as citizens of Pakistan, sent millions of dollars to Wootton Cricket — before money was transferred from the account to Pakistan for the PTI”.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has been investigating the funding of the PTI for more than seven years. In January, the ECP’s scrutiny committee issued a damning report in which it said the PTI received funding from foreign nationals and companies and accused it of under-reporting funds and concealing dozens of bank accounts.
“Wootton Cricket was named in the report, but Naqvi wasn’t identified as its owner,” the report said.
The report said that Wootton Cricket’s bank statement showed it received $1.3mn on March 14 2013 from Abraaj Investment Management Ltd, the fund management unit of Naqvi’s private equity firm, boosting the account’s previous balance of $5,431.
Later the same day, $1.3mn was transferred from the account directly to a PTI bank account in Pakistan. Abraaj expensed the cost to a holding company through which it controlled K-Electric, the power provider to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.
A further $2mn flowed into the Wootton Cricket account in April 2013 from Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, government minister and chair of Pakistan’s Bank Alfalah, according to the bank statement and a copy of the Swift transfer details. Naqvi then exchanged emails with a colleague about transferring $1.2mn more to the PTI.
Six days after the $2mn arrived in the Wootton Cricket bank account, Naqvi transferred $1.2mn from it to Pakistan in two instalments. Rafique Lakhani, the senior Abraaj executive responsible for managing cash flow, wrote in an email to Naqvi that the transfers were intended for the PTI.
The largest entry in Wootton Cricket’s bank account in the months before the election was the $2mn from Sheikh Nahyan.
After Lakhani told Naqvi in an email that Sheikh Nahyan’s money had arrived, Naqvi replied that he should send “1.2 million to PTI”.
In another email to Lakhani, Naqvi wrote: “do not tell anyone where funds are coming from, ie who is contributing”.
“Sure sir,” Lakhani responded.
He wrote that he would transfer $1.2mn from Wootton Cricket to the PTI’s account in Pakistan. Then after considering sending the funds to the PTI via Naqvi’s personal account, Lakhani proposed sending the money in two instalments to a personal account for businessman Tariq Shafi in Karachi and an account for an entity called the Insaf Trust in Lahore.
On May 6 2013, Wootton Cricket transferred a total of $1.2mn to Shafi and the Insaf Trust. Lakhani wrote in an email to Naqvi that the transfers were for the PTI. Khan confirmed that Shafi donated to the PTI. “It is for Tariq Shafi to answer as to from where he received this money,” Khan said in response to the FT.
The ECP investigation into the funding of Khan’s party was triggered when Akbar S Babar, who helped establish the PTI, filed a complaint in December 2014. Although thousands of Pakistanis worldwide sent money to the PTI, Babar insists that “prohibited funding took place”.
Imran Khan confirms receiving funding
In his written response, Khan said that neither he nor his party was aware of Abraaj providing $1.3mn through Wootton Cricket. He also said he was “not aware” of the PTI receiving any funds that originated from Sheikh Nahyan.
“Arif Naqvi has given a statement which was filed before the Election Commission also, not denied by anyone, that the money came from donations during a cricket match and the money as collected by him was sent through his company Wootton Cricket,” Khan wrote.
Khan said he was waiting for the verdict of the election commission’s investigation. “It will not be appropriate to prejudge PTI.”
ECP also confirms funding
In its January report, the election commission said Wootton Cricket had transferred $2.12mn to the PTI but didn’t reveal the original source of the money. Naqvi has acknowledged his ownership of Wootton Cricket and denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, he told the election commission that: “I have not collected any fund from any person of non-Pakistani origin, company [public or private] or any other prohibited source.”
Bank statement says…
The bank statement for Wootton Cricket tells a different story. It shows that Naqvi transferred three instalments directly to the PTI in 2013 adding up to a total of $2.12mn. The largest was the $1.3mn from Abraaj which company documents show was transferred to Wootton Cricket but charged to its holding company for K-Electric. The impact of the scandal could yet hit Khan’s re-election ambitions.