British daily links tycoon Arif Naqvi to PTI foreign funding case

11:53 PM | 29 Jul, 2022
British daily links tycoon Arif Naqvi to PTI foreign funding case
Source: Imran Khan (Twitter)

LONDON – A foreign daily has revealed Pakistani tycoon Arif Naqvi's alleged involvement in the PTI's finances and how a significant portion of these finances in 2013 was of foreign origin.

The news published by the British daily Financial Times (FT) has come at a time when Pakisan's ruling alliance of 11 parties is pushing for announcement of the verdict reserved by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the alleged foreign funding to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of ousted prime minister Imran Khan. 

The FT report says, "Naqvi transferred three instalments directly to the PTI in 2013 adding up to a total of $2.12m."

At the centre of the scandal is Wootton Cricket Ltd, a Cayman Islands-incorporated company owned by Naqvi, and the money from charity fundraisers, such as the “Wootton T20 Cup”, to bankroll PTI.

Naqvi is the founder of the Dubai-based Abraaj Group, which was one of the largest private equity firms operating in emerging markets at the time when the PTI was campaigning for the 2013 elections. He hosted the cricket tournament at his country estate in the Oxfordshire village of Wootton from 2010 to 2012, according to the FT report.

The guests were asked to pay between £2,000 and £2,500 each to attend, according to the UK daily. Quoting, Naqvi, the newspaper said the money went to “philanthropic causes”.

The FT report reads, "Funds poured into Wootton Cricket from companies and individuals, including at least £2m from a United Arab Emirates government minister who is also a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family."

Political parties in Pakistan are not permitted to receive funding from foreign nationals and companies, but Wootton Cricket account details and emails seen by FT for the period between February 28 and May 30, 2013, reveal that both companies and foreign nationals, as well as Pakistanis, sent millions of dollars to Wootton Cricket after which funds were transferred to the PTI in Pakistan.

The ECP had been probing the party's funding since 2014, when party founder Akbar S Babar alleged major irregularities in the party's finances, including in funding from outside Pakistan.

ECP has now concluded the case after seven years of trial. The date the verdict will be announced is yet to be revealed.

Imran Khan visited Wootton Place in 2012. To questions by FT, the former cricketer wrote back saying he had gone to “a fundraising event which was attended by many PTI supporters”. He confirmed that businessman Tariq Shafi donated to the PTI, but said “it is for Tariq Shafi to answer as to from where he received this money”.

Khan said neither he nor his party was aware of Abraaj providing $1.3 million through Wootton Cricket. He also said he was “not aware” of the PTI receiving any funds that originated from UAE. 

“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 ECP's verdict and that it will be inappropriate to "prejudge PTI”.

In its January report, the  ECP said Wootton Cricket had transferred $2.12m to the PTI but at the time did not reveal the original source of the money. 

Naqvi has acknowledged his ownership of Wootton Cricket and denied any wrongdoing. He told the ECP: “I have not collected any fund from any person of non-Pakistani origin, company [public or private] or any other prohibited source.”