ISLAMABAD     -    A probe into the ‘dubious’ money transferred to Pakistan by the former owner of Abraaj Group, Arif Naqvi, has revealed that a large amount in foreign funds was used for the media campaign of the former ruling Paki­stan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) during the 2013 general elections.

Documents obtained by the Fed­eral Investigation Agency (FIA) re­vealed that $625,000 were routed through Wootton Cricket Limited, a Cayman Islands registered offshore firm owned by Naqvi, who is current­ly facing trial in a US court for a $1 billion financial fraud, the web-based Pakistan Defence reported Saturday.

This is in addition to the $2.12 mil­lion received in the PTI’s accounts di­rectly from Wootton, as documented in the election commission’s August 2 verdict in the party’s prohibited funding case. Documents show that the money was sent from Wootton Cricket’s account to “The Insaf Trust” account opened by PTI Chairman Im­ran Khan’s close friend, Tariq Shafi, in his capacity as the first chairman of the trust. Shafi also received $575,000 in one of his personal accounts and trans­ferred to a declared account of the PTI.

Interestingly, the declared objec­tives of the trust were to promote a sense of participative democracy and rule of law, democratic values and political awareness in the society, be­sides undertaking activities in vari­ous forms to promote health educa­tion and social order.

A clause of the trust deed included: “The trust, its funds or property or association of the trustees with the trust shall not be used for personal gain of any particular person or a group of persons.”

Other signatories of the trust’s bank account were the late Ashiq Hussain Qureshi and Hamid Zaman, both close friends of Imran Khan, and it was opened in May 2012 at the Habib Bank Ltd, Lahore Cantt branch.

On May 8, 2013, three days before the general elections, two media management firms — namely ‘Com­munication Spot’ and ‘Group M’ — were paid Rs36m and Rs25 million, respectively, from the trust account for the PTI’s election campaign, the documents revealed. The account was used for just one transaction and has been dormant ever since.

The funding for the media cam­paign through the account of a chari­table organisation is said to be a seri­ous violation of the Political Parties Order 2002, besides drawing charges of money laundering. This amount remained concealed from the Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan.

Sources in the FIA disclosed that Tariq Shafi and others who had opened the trust’s account were is­sued call-up notices thrice, but none of them turned up. They said the no­tices had also been issued to the two media management companies paid for the PTI’s election campaign.

“Group M”, in its response to the FIA’s call-up notice, confirmed that it had re­ceived an advance payment of Rs412m to run the PTI’s 2013 general elections campaign, out of which Rs375m were utilised and the balance was returned to the party via a cross cheque dated Sept 18, 2013. This amount was spent on media advertisements on different TV channels. It further said the compa­ny had also provided similar services to other major political parties, includ­ing the PML-N.

The company, it said, was not aware of the sources of the funds they had invested in the media. “In short, the company had a professional relation­ship with PTI,” its response stated.

The FIA probe revealed the refund was made via a cross cheque in favour of the PTI in its undeclared account, titled “PTI — National Campaign Of­fice”, maintained in then-KASB Bank — now Bank Islami Pakistan. A ma­jor chunk of Rs383m — out of the Rs412m — had been paid to the com­pany out of this account in the now-defunct KASB bank. The PTI’s central office account was used to contribute just Rs3.43m. The other company, however, sought some more time to submit its reply.

Tariq Shafi has already approached the Lahore High Court that directed the FIA to continue its inquiry, but restrained it from taking any ad­verse action against him. Shafi in his petition claimed the money was transferred through proper banking channels.