The strange cricket match story that boosted Imran Khan’s political rise.

Arif Naqvi, a Pakistani tycoon. Hosted weekends of sporting events and partying at his walled country home in the Oxford village of Wootton. He also welcomed cricket legend Imran Khan and hundreds of bankers, attorneys, and investors. The host was the Abraaj Group’s founder, who founded the company in Dubai. At the time, this private equity company was one of the biggest ones working in emerging countries. With millions of dollars under management. The strange cricket match story that boosted Imran Khan’s political rise.

The primary event of the “Wootton T20 Cup,” which Naqvi presided over from 2010 to 2012. Was a cricket match between two teams with made-up names. The Peshawar Perverts and the Faisalabad Fothermuckers. They competed on a spotless field surrounded by 14 acres of traditional gardens and parks at Naqvi’s 17th-century home, Wootton Place. Henry Blofeld, a seasoned cricket commentator, as well as knowledgeable umpires and television teams were present.

According to Naqvi,Each visitor was required to pay between £2,000 and £2,500 in order to attend, with the money going to unname “philanthropic causes.” The fact that a Pakistani political party was the final beneficiary makes it unusual.

The payments were transferr to Wootton Cricket Ltd. Who, despite the name, was actually a Cayman Islands-incorporate business ownby Naqvi. Khan’s political organization, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, utilized the funds to fund its operations. The strange cricket match story that boosted Imran Khan’s political rise.

Pakistan forbids foreign nationals and businesses from funding political parties. But Abraaj e-mails and internal documents obtained by the Financial Times, including a bank statement for a Wootton Cricket account in the UAE for the months of February 28 and May 30, 2013. Show that both businesses and foreigners as well as Pakistani citizens sent millions of pounds to Wootton Cricket. Before funds were transfer from the bank statement to Pakistan for the PTI.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has been looking into the party’s finances for years. As Khan, who was oust from the government in April, plans a comeback, the significance of the investigation has increase.

In 2013, Imran Khan was running for office in Pakistan on an anti-corruption platform. While riding a wave of popular popularity. He positioned himself before the people as a democratic reformer. Who could end the dominance of the political family dynasties that had ruled the nation for many years. As prime minister, he grew more critical of the west and praised the Taliban. Then visited Vladimir Putin in Moscow on the day that Russia invaded Ukraine.

For more than seven years, the Pakistan Election Commission has been investigating the PTI’s funding. The ECP’s scrutiny committee issued a damning report in January. Alleging that the PTI received funding from foreign nationals and companies. Accusing it of underreporting funds and concealing dozens of bank accounts. The report mention Wootton Cricket, but Naqvi was not name as its owner.

Khan resigned in April after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament. That was partly brought on by an increase in prices. He has charged the US with rigging the election. And is currently attempting to mount a comeback to run in the general election scheduled for October 2023.

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Because of that, even though the Naqvi funding occurred almost ten years ago. The debate surrounding it and the election commission’s final report will probably continue to dominate Pakistani politics for some time.

The account of Wootoncricket.com was increase by $1.3 million on March 14, 2013, thanks to Abraaj Investment Management Ltd. Which charged the expense to a holding company it owned, K-Electric, which supplies electricity to Karachi. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, government minister, and chairman of Pakistan’s Bank Alfalah. Transferred an additional $2 million into the account in April 2013. Although it has been state that Naqvi funded Khan’s party, the true source of the funds has never been revealed.

After that, Naqvi and a colleague exchanged emails about sending another $1.2 million to the PTI. Naqvi moved $1.2 million from the Wootton Cricket bank account to Pakistan in two installments six days after the $2 million was deposite there. The top Abraaj official in charge of controlling financial flow. Rafique Lakhani, informe Naqvi via email that the transfers were meant for the PTI. No comments were given by Sheikh Nahyan in response to inquiries.

Uzair Younus, director of the Pakistan program at the Atlantic Council. A Washington-based research organization, claims that Khan is “made of Teflon” like previous populists. He continues, “But his opponents will try to undermine the case. That he is not corrupt by using the foreign money controversy and by pushing the electoral commission to punish him and his party.

A valuable ally

Abraaj was a formidable force in the investing industry, having raised billions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Barack Obama administration. Naqvi met Prince Charles of Britain and participated in the British Asian Trust, one of his charitable organizations. He served alongside former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn on the board of the Interpol Foundation. Which generates money for international police organizations.

He was seen as a helpful ally in Washington. In a news statement, the Obama administration announced a $150 million contribution to an Abraaj fund that invests in Middle Eastern businesses, claiming that the cooperation will help the US president fulfill his pledge to strengthen trade ties with Islamic countries. Some even considered him a potential candidate for political office in Pakistan. Which he once labeled “a country not known for transparency,” before noting that Abraaj “did everything by the book” while in charge of K-Electric.

Even though you were a utility. He claimed, “we avoid every single moment where you would have been require to come into contact with the government and have to pay someone something.”

Shahid Naqvi

Shahid Naqvi of Abraaj agreed to pay $1.77 billion to Shanghai Electric Power, a Chinese state-owned utility, to transfer control of the K-Electric power company. He urged the administrations of Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif for support. According to US federal prosecutors, he authorized a $20 million payment to Pakistani leaders in 2016 to win their support. The strange cricket match story that boosted Imran Khan’s political rise.

After investors, including the Gates Foundation, began looking into whether the company was squandering money, Abraaj folded in 2018. At the time, Abraaj reported managing assets worth roughly $14 billion. Naqvi and five of his former coworkers were charge with wire fraud and money laundering by US prosecutors in 2019. If convicted of the US allegations, Naqvi could spend up to 291 years in prison.

In 2020, a hedge fund manager paid £12.25 million to purchase Wootton Place in London’s exclusive Belgravia, where he is fighting extradition proceedings.

Transferring money

For games at Wootton Cricket Club, Naqvi, a self-described “cricket purist,” donated the bat, balls, osteopaths, masseuses, food, lodging, and clothing. Naqvi once informed visitors that it was acceptable to tamper with balls. Because “it is necessary to foster invention and experimentation in cricket.” Khan need to raise money quickly because the election was set for May 2013.He divide the funds into two payments and sent them to the Insaf Trust in Lahore and businessman Tariq Shafi’s personal account in Karachi. Even if the ownership is murky, the communications indicate that the PTI was the intended recipient.

In May 2013, Wootton Cricket sent $1.2 million to Tariq Shafi and the Insaf Trust. Which were then provided to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Fawad Khan told the Financial Times that the transactions were made specifically for the PTI. “Mr. Shafi must explain where he obtained this funds,” Khan told the Financial Times.

“Prohibited financing occurred”

Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), claimed before the Electoral Commission (ECP) that neither he nor his party were aware that Abraaj had given his party $1.3 million through Wootton Cricket. Regarding the election commission’s investigation into the sources of money for his party, Khan remarked, “It will not be appropriate to prejudge PTI.” The ECP is looking into charges made by Akbar S. Babar, who assisted in founding the PTI and says that illegal funding occurred.

The election commission reported in January that it had sent $2.12 million to the PTI. But it did not specify where the money came from.

Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has called for an early general election following a significant victory for his group in the Punjab by-elections. The corruption case Wootton Cricket and Abraaj initiated against him has not yet been adjudicate by the Pakistani Election Commission.

However, according to Younus of the Atlantic Council, Khan’s devoted fans won’t be sway regardless of the outcome. Khan can even argue that the report is more proof that foreign governments are working with the media to plot against him. The scandal, in Babar’s opinion, shows that Khan has fallen short of the values the PTI and he helped establish in politics. He missed the chance of a lifetime, according to Babar. He claims that “[Khan’s] ethical compass in a political sense went crazy” instead.


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