Govt to probe repatriation of Rs50b laundered money in UK
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Tuesday claimed that the former accountability adviser Shahzad Akbar took a Rs5 billion kickback for repatriation of Rs50 billion of the private housing society Bahria Town laundered to the UK.
Addressing the media reporters in Islamabad after the federal cabinet meeting, he said then-SAPM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar managed the entire process of repatriation of seized funds and took his share of Rs5 billion from it.
He said the UK authorities had confiscated this huge sum after tracing it. Sanaullah added that the UK authorities approached the Pakistani authorities and Akbar settled the matter against his alleged share of Rs5 billion.
The minister said that being the custodian of the state, the former adviser’s responsibility was originally to contest this money.
He said the Bahria Town donated and transferred 458 kanals of precious land to Al-Qadir Trust after the agreement. Ironically, the signatories of the agreement were former first lady Bushra Bibi and the donor (Bahria Town), he added.
Sanaullah said there were only two trustees of Al-Qadir Trust namely Bushra Bibi and Imran Khan.
Similarly, the minister said that 240 kanals of land was transferred in the name of Farah Shahzadi, wife of Ahsan Iqbal Jameel, in Banigala.
Farah Shahzadi did not flee Pakistan because of taking diamond rings rather she ran away to escape questioning on illegal transfer of 240 kanals land in Banigala.
Sanaullah said that there was no university at the site rather Bahria Town organized all functions held there during visits of Imran Khan.
He said Imran Khan received his due share in all such matters, and it was a direct plundering of public money.
He said a subcommittee of the cabinet will investigate the matter and would take action in light of its findings.
The matter of the confidential deal between the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and property magnate Malik Riaz’s family was brought up in the federal cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday.
The contents of the deal were presented before the cabinet through the report of the Asset Recovery Unit (ARU). After deliberation, the federal cabinet has decided to publicize the deal.
What happened to Hyde Park London deal?
The government of Pakistan made an agreement with M/S Bahria Town Pvt Ltd that an expensive property located in heart of London would be sold out, and its amount would be transferred to Pakistan.
This deal came after M/S Bahria Town Pvt Ltd did an out-of-court settlement with British National Crime Agency in a case where the latter frozen an amount of some 140 million GBP Pounds including 1-Hyde Park London property purchased by Ali Riaz Malik.
As per the documents of the ARU obtained by SAMAA TV, the UK government issued Account Freezing Orders (AFOs) of approximately £20 million GBP Pounds that were transacted by two Pakistani nationals, Ali Riaz Malik and Mubashara Malik on December 14, 2018.
The NCA sought details of any pending cases, inquiries, and investigations against the named individuals, and the ARU and allied agencies provided the required support. Thereafter, the NCA initiated action in relation to the bank accounts and learned that 1 Hyde Park Place, a prime London property, was recently purchased by the family.
Subsequently, on August 12, 2019, the NCA further froze approximately £119.7 million GBP Pounds in various banks in the UK belonging to the same individuals and other family members.
During the pendency of this investigation and provision of the initial letters by the ARU, the Supreme Court settled the matter of Bahria Town (Private) Ltd in lieu of the agreed sum to be paid by Messrs Bahria Town (Private) Ltd and suspended related criminal cases, the documents read.
In the same spirit, the respondents in the case approached the NCA through their counsels in the UK and made an offer for an out-of-court settlement under which the total sum of £139.7 Million GBP Pounds, which included all the frozen accounts to be surrendered and repatriated to Pakistan against their liability in light of the court’s orders.
The documents read, “It was also agreed under the settlement agreement that the Respondents will surrender 1 Hyde Park Place to an independent agent to sell and repatriate the funds to the State of Pakistan in the similar manner stated above within a maximum period of two years.”
“The settlement agreement (the Framework Agreement) was entered into between all the respondents and the NCA. The government of Pakistan through the ARU facilitated initial freezing order, however, the NCA and the Respondents’ decision to settle out of court has its own merits and was agreed by the NCA on its own.”
“The investigation and subsequent litigation in this case could have easily taken five to seven years with substantial costs in the form of legal fees and any purported pursuance by the government of Pakistan. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the eventual result of this litigation would be favorable to the NCA or the government of Pakistan. It is pertinent to mention that the AFOs and any subsequent litigation is of civil nature and, therefore, would not have any criminal liability involved.”
Pakistan’s government through ARU also pleaded its claim for repatriation of funds to Pakistan. As in the case of the success of this process, the money should have been returned to Pakistan. The UK government had already agreed to the repatriation of the funds to Pakistan and the NCA subsequently signed a settlement agreement with the respondents, which includes clauses under the given scheme.
“The agreements have been executed and as per the terms of the agreement, the NCA has moved before the court to lift the AFOs, where after the money will be repatriated to the stipulated accounts of Pakistan,” the document said.
As per the general policy of the NCA and the terms of the settlement agreement, the details are confidential matters and shall not be publicized unless required by law while the Pakistani government is required to sign a non-disclosure ‘Deed of Confidentiality’ under which the details of the settlement agreement cannot be made public.
It added that as per the requirement under the Constitution of Pakistan, the approval of the federal government was sought through the cabinet for the confidentiality deed.
Cabinet kept in the dark
While speaking on SAMAA TV’s program Nadeem Malik Live Tuesday night, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal termed the revelation as a mega scandal.
Narrating what they have come to know, Iqbal said that the cabinet meeting apparently got over and ex-prime minister Imran Khan waved an envelope and said, “This has to be approved”.
He added that a PTI female minister questioned what was inside the envelope that was required to be approved because the summary was not brought before the cabinet. To this, Iqbal stated that Imran Khan said that it was not necessary for them [cabinet members] to know about it and went on to say that the document must be considered ‘approved’.
Later, the minister said that Imran Khan issued an order to the cabinet secretary to keep the envelope sealed unless the court asks for it.
Iqbal said they were surprised to learn the contents when the multifold sealed envelope was de-sealed.
He added that the note inside the envelope said that it was public money that would be transacted to the national exchequer. However, at the time of the disposal, it was transferred in the name of a private individual under a secret agreement and the settlement record was presented before the Supreme Court.
To a question, he said that the PTI also hoaxed the top court in the matter and demanded that the court should take suo moto of it.