Islamabad, Sep 4 (IANS) With the Bajwa/Bajco scandal refusing to die down in Pakistan’s fractious polity, Prime Minister Imran Khan has refused to accept Lt Gen (Retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa’s resignation here on Friday.
Enveloped in a corruption scandal, Asim Bajwa is Imran Khan’s key advisor on information and broadcasting.
Senator Faisal Javed Khan confirmed through a tweet that Imran Khan would like Bajwa to continue working with him despite the enormity of the scandal. This comes after a website broke a story alleging that Bajwa had amassed a huge fortune in conjunction with his family members by setting up a gigantic offshore business.
Bajwa is also the chairman of the highly prestigious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority.
In a statement issued by him on Thursday, Bajwa had refuted the allegations saying they were incorrect and false. According to the statement, the report alleged that his declaration of assets and liabilities as an SAPM dated August 22 was incorrect because he had failed to disclose the investment made by his wife abroad.
At the very kernel of the charges levelled against Bajwa is a parent company called Bajco Global Management which appears to be a well-oiled family enterprise with widespread tentacles.
The Dawn report also claimed that Bajwa’s brothers had conducted businesses in the US and the growth of their business was relatable to his promotion in the Pakistan Army.
Bajwa, who was also asked by his colleagues, including Information Minister Shibli Faraz, to respond to the allegations, said that on the date of filing of the assets declaration, i.e. August 22, his wife was no longer an investor or shareholder in any business of his brothers or anyone else abroad.
“My wife had disinvested all her interests on 01.06.2020 in any entity abroad and such fact has been duly documented in the official records in the USA. It may be pointed out that the company registered in the SECP in Pakistan was the liaison office of the companies in the USA.
“The process of change of name in the SECP in Pakistan has been conducted in due course, but that was only a ministerial function since the interest in the parent companies in the USA stood no more in the name of my wife as on 22.06.2020, i.e., the date of filing of my declaration of assets and liabilities as an SAPM,” he said.
He added that from 2002 till August 1 this year (18 years), the total amount out of investment made by his wife in the companies owned by his brothers in the US had been $19,492.
“This investment was made by my wife through my savings spread over a period of 18 years, all of which are fully accounted for. Not once the rules or regulations prescribed by the SBP were violated,” he said.
With regard to the alleged investment of his brothers in the pizza chain Papa John’s in the US and the UAE, he said the news story asserted that Bajco Global Management, LLC was the parent company of all Bajco-related businesses.
“This is far from the truth as Bajco Global Management, LLC is not a parent of any company and is only a management company that provides management services to all Bajco-related businesses on a fee basis. Bajco Global Management, LLC does not have any ownership interest in any Papa John’s in the USA, DQ, UAE or any real estate.
“There are a total of 27 active companies in the US and 2 in the UAE. In a span of 18 years, i.e., from 2002 till date, my brothers purchased the franchise and assets related thereto and real estate to the tune of $70 million, out of which around $60 million was through bank loans and financial facilities.
“Over a period of 18 years, the actual out of pocket cash investment into businesses by my brothers and wife has been about $73,950. It is further pointed out that out of $73,950, my wife’s contribution, as stated aforesaid, is $19,492. Thus, the total out of pocket cash contribution of my five brothers, over a period of 18 years, has been $54,458,” he said.
Regarding allegations about the businesses of his children, Bajwa said it had been alleged that one of his sons owned a company, Scion Builders and Estates (Pvt) Ltd, which had been registered in the SECP.
“However, this company has never done any business and is dormant since inception,” he claimed.
Bajwa said that one of his sons was not the sole owner of a private company called Himalaya Ltd, but owned only 50 per cent of its shares.
Regarding a business entity, Mochi Cordwainers, registered in the name of one of his sons, he said it was true that his son was the sole proprietor of the small entity, but for the last five years, it had only incurred losses.
Bajwa said a business entity, Krypton, was owned by his son. It dealt in mines and minerals and was registered at the time when he was posted in Balochistan.
“Unfortunately, no one has bothered to find out that the said business entity is registered as a sole proprietorship in the FBR in 2019, but it has always been dormant and has not done any business,” Bajwa said.
He said another company, Advance Marketing (Pvt) Ltd, was owned by one of his sons, but it had also remained dormant and had never conducted any business.
“This is an averment levelled against me that the company, Scion Management Group LLC, owned by my sons, owns a house in the US,” he said.
According to the news report quoted by the Dawn, Bajwa’s younger brothers opened their first Papa John’s pizza restaurant in 2002, the year he started working as a Lieutenant Colonel on General Pervez Musharraf’s staff.
Nadeem Bajwa, 53, who started as a delivery driver for the pizza restaurant franchise, his brothers and Asim Bajwa’s wife and sons now own a business empire which set up 99 companies in four countries, including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated $39.9 million.
Out of the total 99 firms, 66 are main companies, 33 are branch companies of some of the main companies while five firms are dead now.
The Bajwa family’s companies spent an estimated $52.2 million to develop their businesses and $14.5 million to purchase properties in the US.
The news report added that Bajwa’s wife was a shareholder in all the foreign businesses from the very beginning and at present she is associated with or is a shareholder in 85 companies, including 82 foreign companies (71 in the US, 7 in the UAE and 4 in Canada).
US state government records and other documents related to the companies show that some of these American companies (all jointly owned by Asim’s wife Farrukh Zeba) also have investments in the real estate sector and own 13 commercial properties in the US, including two shopping centres.
The estimated current net worth of businesses and properties of these companies jointly owned by Farrukh Zeba stands at $52.7 million.