After his investigative report was published in Financial Times about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) foreign funding by Wootton Cricket Ltd, British journalist Simon Clark has come forward with some more revelations.
On Geo News‘ show ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath’, Simon Clark claimed that he has all the evidence to prove what he has written in the FT report when asked if PTI takes him to court, would he be able to prove everything. He said he has sources including “bank statements, SWIFT statements, internal Abraaj e-mails, spreadsheets, and documents”.
“I gave everyone’s names in the article multiple opportunities to respond and explain. Imran Khan and the PTI responded to my queries but Arif Naqvi, Tariq Shafi, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan didn’t.”
About the Wootton Cricket Club through which millions of dollars were collected, Simon Clark revealed that he spoke to the guests who had attended the match. According to him, the guests “did not know where the money was going”.
He also says Naqvi’s affidavit in which he says he received funds for the PTI only from Pakistani residents living temporarily or permanently abroad is contradicted by the evidence he has gathered.
“I was always curious about the purpose of Wootton Cricket because of its strange name but the first I got to know of its purpose was in January when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) published its initial report on the PTI foreign funding case. The ECP had said the PTI received $2.12 million from Wootton Cricket. However, the ECP report did not say where Wootton was getting its money from and that’s what my story is about.”
Simon Clark said that he himself collected enormous amounts of evidence of financial wrongdoing at Abraaj as the money that was supposed to go to a hospital was spent on bonuses and salaries by the company’s executives. He said that the financial issues were created by the owners but they failed to take responsibility for it. He also added that he has seen no evidence of a conspiracy against Arif Naqvi.
About the alleged case of bribing the Sharif brothers, Simon said, “Abraaj emails that show that Naqvi and colleagues were talking about the $20 million payment [as a bribe] to the Sharifs [for approval of the K-Electric deal], I have seen no evidence that the money was actually paid. And the Sharifs say they didn’t even know the money was being discussed.”
The report titled, “The strange case of the cricket match that helped fund Imran Khan’s political rise” is written by Simon Clark, a journalist and writer. His published book “The Key Man: The True Story of How the Global Elite Was Duped by a Capitalist Fairy Tale“, is based on Pakistani tycoon Arif Naqvi who is a founder of Abraaj, a Dubai-based private-equity firm.
Naqvi also presided over the“Wootton T20 Cup” from 2010 to 2012.
Th report has stated that Wootton Cricket Ltd transferred a huge amount of money through charities to PTI bank accounts in Pakistan in 2013 before the general elections in Pakistan.
One time, Pakistani tycoon Arif Naqvi invited cricket superstar Imran Khan and other personalities to his walled country estate in the Oxfordshire village of Wootton for a cricket tournament. Through such events, millions of dollars were collected, which were later transferred to PTI.
The first transfer was made on March 14, 2013, according to the newspaper, “Wootton Cricket’s bank statement shows it received $1.3 million from Abraaj Investment Management Ltd. Later the same day, the amount was transferred directly to a PTI bank account in Pakistan.”
“In April 2013, transferred $2 million into the Wootton Cricket account. Six days later, Naqvi transferred $1.2mn to Pakistan in two installments”. Sheikh is a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, government minister, and chair of Pakistan’s Bank Alfalah.
The report mentions: “Pakistan forbids foreign nationals and companies from funding political parties,” however, “companies, foreign nationals, and citizens of Pakistan, sent millions of dollars to Wootton Cricket before money was transferred to PTI.”
The report also states: “Abraaj expensed the cost to a holding company through which it controlled K-Electric, the power provider to Karachi”.
K-Electric at the time was also owned by Naqvi.
In 2018, Abraaj collapsed and an investigation started that the company is misappropriating funds.
Naqvi was arrested in 2019 and faces up to 291 years in jail if found guilty of the US charges.
His appeal against extradition to the US is expected to conclude later this year. But he had to pay £15 million for bail and has hefty ongoing legal expenses.
Wootton Place was sold to a hedge fund manager in 2020 for £12.25 million.
Affiliated with the Sharif brothers
Naqvi has also been affiliated with the Sharif brothers. In 2016, when K-Electric ran into financial difficulties, Naqvi had to sell the company for which he needed political backing. The same year, Naqvi authorised a $20 million payment “for Pakistan politicians to gain their support”.
The report states that “the payment was allegedly intended for Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz”.
However, the Sharif brothers have denied any knowledge of the matter.
In early 2017, Naqvi hosted a dinner for Nawaz Sharif at Davos, Switzerland.
ECP investigation into PTI foreign funding case
The ECP has been probing the party’s funding since 2014 when PTI founding member Akbar S Babar alleged major irregularities in the party’s finances, including funding from outside Pakistan.
In a 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 had acknowledged his ownership of Wootton Cricket but denied any wrongdoing.
The ECP has concluded the case. However, the verdict is yet to be announced.
What does Imran Khan say?
At the time 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.
Further, Khan wrote: “Arif Naqvi has given a statement that 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.”
PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry asked the local media not to portray “our people as villains”, as when a Pakistani Muslim’s influence crosses a certain benchmark, it is not welcomed by the “Israeli lobby”.
He also defended his party and said that Naqvi had submitted an affidavit to the ECP, stating that “all funding is legal”.
‘People must know from where Imran has been getting money’: Shahid Khaqan
After the release of the report, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the coalition government, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), met ECP officials and urged them to release e the verdict.
Abbasi said Naqvi organised cricket matches in London and collected millions from people in the name of “philanthropic causes”.
He claimed that a large sum of money related to the case was still abroad in personal accounts. “If a political party is doing politics after taking money from Jewish agents or anyone else — we don’t know who is behind these companies,” he commented.
Prime Minister (PM) Shehbaz Sharif has repeatedly urged the ECP to announce its judgement in the long-delayed case.