The UK High Court has dismissed appeals from Pakistani real estate tycoon and Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz Hussain and his son Ahmed Ali Riaz seeking to overturn the UK Home Department’s decision to cancel their 10-year multiple entry visas.
In a little- known development, the UK's Home Department had cancelled their visas in December 2019 and the father-son duo challenged the decision at multiple stages but in vain.
A claim for judicial review was dismissed by the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in a judgement dated November 17, 2020, and the British Home Secretary ruled against them on January 31, 2020, according to court documents.
They then filed an appeal against the decision by the Home Secretary and it was heard by a three-member bench of the England and Wales Court of Appeal, which is the second most senior court in the UK. Only the Supreme Court is above it. Hence, many Pakistanis refer to the England and Wales Court of Appeal as the UK High Court.
The bench comprised of Lady Justice Nicola Davies, Lord Justice Nugee, and Lord Justice Snowden.
An internationally recognised British law firm Kingsley Napley LLP represented Malik Riaz and his son.
The UK High Court handed down a verdict on Friday, November 26, 2020. The detailed judgement reveals that
- British authorities decided to "exclude" Malik Riaz and Ali Riaz from the UK for their ownership of Bahria Town and their alleged involvement "with corruption and financial/commercial misconduct.”
- Two judgements of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a JIT report were taken as a key piece of evidence by the British authorities against Malik Riaz Hussain and his son.
- A UK assets freeze order again Malik Riaz family and the subsequent settlement of £190 million was also referred to in the court judgement. The frozen money was returned to Pakistan in 2019.
How the case proceeded
The detailed verdict by the London High Court shows how the case moved from the tribunal to the high court.
After the visas were cancelled in December 2019 by the UK Home Department, Malik Riaz and Ahmed Ali Riaz challenged the decision before a tribunal.
At the tribunal level, the appellants attacked a key finding by the UK Home Department which had concluded and alleged while cancelling their visas that "Bahria Town and/or the appellants practiced corruption or benefitted from the proceeds of illegitimate activities." The appellants maintained that this conclusion was "irrational and thus unlawful."
They also claimed that the home department "breached the requirements of procedural fairness and the breach was material to the outcome."
However, the claims were dismissed.
Later, the UK Home Secretary in her decision said “whilst there has not been a criminal conviction against you [Malik Riaz and his son] I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you have been involved with corruption and financial/commercial misconduct.”
“As a result, having regard to the UK’s commitment to combat corruption and financial crime, I believe that your exclusion from the UK is conducive to the public good due to your conduct, character and association."
Supreme Court of Pakistan judgements play a key role
The UK High Court verdict also reveals that the judgements against the Bahria Town handed down by the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) in 2018 and 2019, especially the judgement dated 4 May 2018, were cited by British Home Secretary in her decision and were seen as "the evidence before the respondent" by the UK High Court.
The court referred to paragraphs from the Supreme Court of Pakistan judgements on the allotment of MDA land for Bahria Town Karachi.
The UK court extensively reproduced parts of the SC judgements and then it went on to cite and reproduce part of the Joint Investigation Team report. The said JIT was formed on the instructions by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The UK High Court in its paragraph 35 notes that the JIT recommended a NAB inquiry against Bahria Town. It reproduced the following lines from the JIT report "NAB may be directed to conduct a thorough inquiry/ investigation to recover the kickbacks and probe into the associated illegal allotments of state land to Bahria Town and file a reference in the Accountability Court. …"
British Court also refers to the assets freeze episode
In 2019, the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom after an assets freeze order agreed to a settlement worth £190 million or Rs38 billion with Malik Riaz Hussain’s family. This money was returned to the Pakistani government.
The UK High Court judgement refers to this episode as well. It also reviews the ruling by the tribunal and the argument presented by the appellants and the respondent, namely the British Home Secretary.
The court weighed the seven "grounds of appeal" presented by the legal team representing Malik Riaz and his son. Their lawyers maintained that
- The judge wrongly rejected the appellants' challenge to the respondent's reliance on the Supreme Court judgment in concluding that the appellants were involved in corruption;
- The Tribunal wrongly rejected the appellants' challenge to the respondent's approach to the Supreme Court Implementation Bench's order;
- The Tribunal wrongly rejected the appellants' challenge to the respondent's approach to the JIT Report in the Fake Accounts Case;
- The Tribunal wrongly rejected the appellants' challenge to the respondent's approach to the NAB's interim reference;
- The Tribunal wrongly rejected the appellants' challenge to the respondent's approach to the account freezing proceedings;
- The Tribunal wrongly rejected the appellants' challenge to the respondent's cumulative reliance on weak strands of evidence;
- The Tribunal wrongly rejected the appellants' challenge to the respondent's failure to acknowledge the differences in the evidence against the appellants.
In paragraph 86 of the judgement, Lady Justice Nicola Davies writes that based on the 2018 Supreme Court of Pakistan judgement, the JIT report, and the fact that "the significantly increased sum of money" was paid by Bahria Town for the Karachi land in 2019 after the Supreme Court orders there is "evidence of sufficient strength and quality to enable the decision-maker, on the balance of probabilities, to conclude that by reason of each appellant's involvement with corruption and financial/commercial misconduct his exclusion from the UK would be conducive to the public good due to the conduct, character and associations of each appellant."
Lady Justice Nicola Davies rejected the seven grounds of appeal by the appellants and ruled to "dismiss the appeals of Malik Riaz Hussain and Ahmed Ali Riaz." The other two judges Lord Justice Nugee and Lord Justice Snowden agreed to the judgement penned down by Lady Justice Nicola Davies.
The full verdict could be viewed here.
NCA’s settlement with Malik Riaz
The 2019 assets freeze order related to a UK property located at 1 Hyde Park Place, London, W2 2LH, and valued at approximately £50 million as well as all of the funds (cash) in the frozen accounts of the Malik Riaz family.
NCA said that freezing orders of these accounts were secured in August 2019 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
The NCA later transferred £190 million to Pakistan and Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar confirmed the transfer.
However, Malik Riaz had claimed at the time that “I sold our legal and declared property in [the] UK to pay 190m pounds to the Supreme Court Pakistan against Bahria Town Karachi.”
He had also said that the “NCA press release says the settlement is a civil matter and does not represent a finding of guilt.”