A property in London, which became the center of attention in the Panama Papers case involving deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and then seized as part of illegal sums obtained by property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain, has seen a new twist in its fate after a ‘fresh’ charge was placed against it in the land registry system of the United Kingdom.
Land registry documents for 1 Hyde Park Place, London W2 2LH, available with Samaa TV’s premier Special Investigation Unit (SIU) show that a new charge was placed against the property in June 2020.
The title registry, obtained exclusively in June 2022, shows that Nicholas Nicholson - of Haslers, Old Station Road, Loughton IG10 4PL - is the new proprietor of the property.
The provisional title registry document shows that following a transfer of the property in March 2016, when it was sold for £42.5 million, a charge was placed against its sale, transfer or otherwise disposal.
“Restriction: No disposition (sale, transfer or purchase etc) of the registered estate by the proprietor of the registered estate is to be registered without a written consent signed by the proprietor for the time being of the Charge dated 5 June 2020 in favour of Nicholas Nicholson referred to in the Charges Register,” it read.
The charge had been added to the property’s registry on June 9, 2020.
The property first came to prominence after the Panama Papers revealed that it belonged to then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family.
Soon after the scandal, Hussain Nawaz, who was shown to be the owner of the property through an offshore shell company, reportedly sold it to Malik Riaz in March 2016.
The property tycoon had bought the property through his shell company, Ultimate Holdings MGT. Limited - an offshore company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
In 2018-19, it was seized by UK’s premier anti-money laundering agency, the National Crime Agency (NCA) after it discovered that the property was purchased through the proceeds of criminal activity.
In all, the British government had seized around £190 million belonging to Malik Riaz and his family, including the property, because they were believed to have been obtained through illegal means. The UK government issued Account Freezing Orders (AFOs) for approximately £20 million that were transacted by two Pakistani nationals, Ali Riaz Malik - Malik Riaz’s son and Mubashara Malik on December 14, 2018.
Malik Riaz and his family were only spared criminal prosecution after they reached an out-of-court settlement with the NCA in 2019 to forfeit the money. It was decided by the NCA that the money, including that which would be recovered from the sale of 1 Hyde Park Place, would be returned to the state of Pakistan.
Under a deal with Ali Riaz Malik and NCA, the property was supposed to be handed over to an independent agent to dispose of it within two years. The sum obtained would then be transferred by the NCA to the government of Pakistan.
“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,” according to a document of the ARU obtained by SAMAA TV.
The documents further read, “the settlement agreement (the Framework Agreement) was entered into between all the respondents and the NCA. The government of Pakistan through the ARU facilitated the 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 Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) of Pakistan, through its then chairman Mirza Shehzad Akbar, facilitated the NCA to repatriate further proceeds from the settlement with Bahria Town, Ali Riaz Malik and others.
In 2016, Hassan Nawaz registered charges against this property. But these charges no longer appear in the property’s charges register.
These charges apparently have been resolved.
Moreover, the registered owners of the property, Ultimate Holding Mgt. Ltd nor Ali Riaz Malik directly appear in the title register anymore.
Responding to queries by SAMAA TV’s Special Investigation Unit, the NCA’s Communications Manager Stuart Hadley pointed out that the out-of-court settlement was reached between the agency and the individuals involved.
With the agency due to transfer this property, along with all other seized assets to the state of Pakistan including any proceeds raised from the sale of any seized assets, Hadley said that the property was “returned as part of the settlement agreement (to which the GOP was not a party),” read NCA’s answer.
SAMAA TV also made several attempts to contact Bahria Town Pvt. Ltd to obtain their version on the matter. Despite writing to them multiple times and sending reminders, their management did not respond.
Moreover, SAMAA TV also wrote to Kingsley Napley, the firm pleading Bahria Town Ltd’s case in the UK, to ascertain some facts about this case.
Despite several reminders sent to the firm, they did not provide any response.