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Monday, May 27, 2024

Riaz Malik: I sold flat to pay for Bahria Karachi settlement

Malik Riaz responded on twitter to the story that has hit Pakistani news media in a storm – that the National Crime Agency, UK, has agreed on a settlement of £190 million with a leading Pakistani business tycoon. Money will be transferred to Govt. of Pakistan.

Malik Riaz did a series of tweets in which he said ‘some habituals are twisting the NCA report 180 degrees to throw mud at me. I sold our legal & declared property in UK to pay 190M £ to Supreme Court Pakistan against Bahria Town Karachi’

He then went on in his second tweet to say NCA press release says the settlement is a civil matter and does not represent a finding of guilt. I am a proud Pakistan and I will remain until I breath my last. Pakistan Zindabad

Civil Matter or Criminal?

Malik Riaz has claimed that National Crime Agency (NCA) of the UK has called this a “civil matter”, however a careful reading of the press release and tweets of NCA makes it clear that NCA has not said anything whether this is a civil or criminal matter. However Barrister Shahzad Akbar, Special Assistant to PM on Accountability, said something like that in his press briefing on Tuesday.

Irrespective of this contradiction, this definitely looks like a civil matter in which Malik appears to be cooperating with the NCA. But then the question is that why Malik’s money is being repatriated to Pakistan? Malik was not an office holder and Govt of Pakistan had not claims or charges of money laundering against him. Impression stays that Malik has taken upon him to provide a legal way for reimbursements on behalf of some top politicians.

The Karachi settlement Malik Riaz is referring to is regarding the case that had been taken up by former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on the payment made to Malir Development authority for Karachi Bahria Town. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court on Thursday, 21st March accepted Malik Riaz Rs. 460 billion plea bargain offer in the land swap case with the Malir Development Authority.

Read more: Bahria Town succumbs: Rs460bn in exchange for graft case removal

As per the settlement verdict with the Supreme court, Bahria Town Karachi would pay the entire amount over the next seven years. The Supreme Court had asked Bahria Town Karachi to pay 30 percent of the amount by August 2019. From September onwards, it was to deposit monthly installments of Rs2.25bn to the national exchequer for the next three years.

The National Crime Agency has, according to its own website and twitter handle, agreed on a settlement figure with a family that owns large property developments in Pakistan and elsewhere.

According to NCA website, The £190 million settlement is the result of an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) into Malik Riaz Hussain, a Pakistani national, whose business is one of the biggest private-sector employers in Pakistan.

Earlier, Pakistani media had been reporting on one property (valued around £50 million) which appears to be part of this deal, for the past several months and it apparently belonged to Hassan Nawaz, self-exiled son of former PM, Nawaz Sharif. The settlement includes a UK property valued at approximately £50 million.

Malik Riaz first surfaced to prominence with his Bahria Scheme around Rawalpindi and Islamabad and is reputed to have links with everyone who matters in Pakistani government and politics. For the past several months, Pakistani social media was alive with the rumors that some of the key Pakistani politicians facing corruption cases in NAB will ultimately pay through third parties to avoid a conviction – and Malik Riaz’s name was being mentioned in this regards.

Read more: NCA, UK settlement with Malik Riaz: Implications for Pakistani Politics

In August 2019, according to UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), eight account freezing orders were secured at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in connection with funds totalling around £120 million. These followed an earlier freezing order in December 2018 linked to the same investigation for £20 million. All of the account freezing orders relate to money held in UK bank accounts.

The NCA has accepted a settlement offer in the region of £190 million which includes a UK property, 1 Hyde Park Place, London, W2 2LH, valued at approximately £50 million and all of the funds in the frozen accounts. What is immensely significant is that Pakistani media had been claiming with the help of documents that 1 Hyde Park Place had previously belonged to Hassan Nawaz, youngest son of Nawaz Sharif.

Read more: Sharifs money recovered through proxy? Is PM vindicated?

Hassan and Hussain, sons of Nawaz Sharif were wanted for investigations by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after the Panama scandal. However they took exile in London, UK and have been declared “proclaimed offenders” (PO) by Pakistani courts.

The assets will be returned to the State of Pakistan. This development will have huge implications for Pakistani politics. While ex-Prime Minister’s son seem to be avoiding conviction but politics will absorb it differently – leaving no doubt in minds that family was guilty as charged in public debate.

Nawaz Sharif, convicted in other cases, recently left Pakistan on medical grounds after getting bails from courts. Bails were given on grounds that were new in Pakistan’s legal history and it was widely believed that this happened as a results of a political deal in which family would pay back some of the corrupt money. And that it will be paid back through third parties. PMLN leaders strongly denied such accusations, however now the NCA, UK story will be hugely embarrassing for PMLN.