ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday held a threadbare discussion on the recovery of 190 million pounds by the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) from real estate tycoon Malik Riaz’s family and handing it over to Pakistan.
A source, who attended the meeting, told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the prime minister discussed the matter with some cabinet members when officials of Prime Minister Secretariat and other ministries had left the meeting hall.
According to a press release issued by the PM Office, the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) facilitated the repatriation of 190 million pounds (approximately $250m) through a settlement.
The UK’s National Crime Agency has agreed to an out-of-court settlement in a pending investigation with a Pakistani family that owns large property developments in Pakistan and elsewhere. The NCA also agreed on the immediate repatriation of funds to the state of Pakistan, it added.
“The 190 million pounds settlement is the result of an investigation by the NCA into Malik Riaz Hussain, a Pakistani national, whose business is one of the biggest private-sector employers in Pakistan and the settlement is a civil matter and does not represent a finding of guilt,” it said.
The source claimed that in fact, the NCA had initiated investigation against Malik Riaz on a complaint of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government as the latter believed that the money had been laundered by a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader in the UK.
When contacted, Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar expressed reluctance to share details of the case due to some conditions in the “settlement”.
“We had two options; either to pursue the case, which sometimes lingers on for over five years, or go into the settlement to get the money back,” he added. Asked if the money would be given to the Supreme Court as claimed by Malik Riaz, Mr. Akbar said “no comments”.
“It is not important how the money had been laundered, the important [thing] is that we have managed to get it recovered,” he said, adding that it was the first case in the country’s history that the national wealth stashed abroad had been recovered.
The government did not share details of the case with the media because such revelation could hamper the trust of international agencies which also desired some ‘confidentialities’ in such settlements.
“We have also taken up such recovery cases with some other international agencies and, therefore, we are very careful,” Mr. Akbar said.
In August, Mr. Akbar said that eight account freezing orders were secured at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in connection with funds totaling around 120m pounds. These followed an earlier freezing order in December 2018 linked to the same investigation for 20m pounds. All of these account freezing orders relate to the money held in UK bank accounts. The proceedings were against the funds themselves, and not against any individual.
The settlement includes a UK property located at 1 Hyde Park Place in central London which was previously owned by Hassan Nawaz, the son of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and was sold to the Malik Riaz family in March 2016. As per the agreement between the parties, further details of the settlement are confidential.
The repatriation of funds is the result of an out-of-court settlement in a civil matter and is a success story of close cooperation between the UK’s and Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies and efforts made since the creation last year of Justice and Accountability Partnership between the two countries.
The Assets Recovery Unit was constituted in September 2018 following the recommendation by the Task Force on Recovery of Unlawfully Acquired Assets Abroad, which was formed in August 2018.