How Can SC Accept Malik Riaz’s Tainted Money Without Question?
Muhammad Ziauddin analyses business tycoon Malik Riaz’s financial settlement with UK crime agency and PM’s assistant Shehzad Akbar’s statement that the recovered money has been transferred to the SC account. Will there be no accountability?
The very fact that it was UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) that had recovered £190 million from Pakistani real estate tycoon Malik Riaz indicates that it was certainly a case of financial felony.
The NCA works at the forefront of UK’s law enforcement, investigating serious and organised crime threats, pursuing the most serious and dangerous offenders and developing and delivering specialist capabilities on behalf of law enforcement and other partners.
Since most of the details surrounding the recovery of such a huge amount of money have been withheld by the NCA, one could only make a guess as to the nature of the crime which seemingly appears to be a case of money laundering.
However, no criminal case has been instituted against the alleged offender and neither has the UK confiscated the amount, nor recovered the usual 40% tax from such tainted amounts. The NCA has claimed that it was a case of civilian nature and not a criminal offence. Makes one wonder.
Indeed, on Tuesday, the NCA agreeing to a civil settlement with the family of Malik Riaz, accepted a settlement offer of £190m which includes a UK property, valued at approximately £50m, and all of the funds in nine frozen accounts and stated that the funds would be handed over to Pakistan. The property referred to is 1, Hyde Park, London which Hasan Nawaz, son of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sold to Malik Riaz’ family in 2016. When asked, Hasan Nawaz said he had bought the property on mortgage using bank loans and sold it for cash stating ‘that is what I do, that is my business”.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar took to Twitter on Friday and dealt a thunderbolt to the public at large in Pakistan stating that the recovered amount instead of going to the official treasury had been transferred to an account of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SBP) in the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP).
Mr. Akbar was referring to the bank account set up by the apex court into which Malik Riaz is required to deposit funds as part of Rs. 460 billion settlement for 16, 896 acres of land in Malir district, Karachi on which the Bahria Town Limited (BTLK) has been built.
The question is how could an amount of tainted money recovered from Malik Riaz in the UK and returned to State of Pakistan go into the SC account as a settlement of part of a huge fine imposed by the SC on the same alleged offender of money laundering for gabbing a vast tract of pricey land in Karachi’s Malir district?
But that is exactly what has happened, thanks most probably to Shahzad Akbar who was promoted probably just for accomplishing what appears to be a task equivalent to whodunit. In fact, even Houdini would have gone green with envy at this almost impossible stunt performed by Shahzad Akbar to the wonderment of a nation of over 200 million.
Harry Houdini was an illusionist and stunt performer, noted for his sensational escape acts. After promotion, barrister Shahzad Akbar now wears three hats – Special Assistant on Accountability and Interior Ministry and chief of the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) with the status of minister of state. He can now be considered one of the powerful persons in the government set-up.
Here is how he has perhaps succeeded in getting the money laundering offender off the hook in the UK. And then when the money arrived in Pakistan, he got it transferred to SC account without any one, even the SC questioning him how could tainted money recovered by NCA from Malik Riaz be used as part of settlement of the fine imposed on him for another offence.
He had perhaps had the money laundering offender come clean in the UK and accept his crime which meant it was tax evaded amount from Pakistan. In cases of recovery of such amounts under new global arrangement, if proven to be so beyond all doubts, the recovering country is obliged to transfer to the country from where the tax evaded money was laundered. Shahzad perhaps had also liberally used Prime Minister Imran Khan’s name (who has lots of friends in high places in the UK) to get the offender and the laundered money off the hook in the UK.
Once the money was in Pakistan, it was just a cinch for him, using his three powerful hats to get the amount transferred to SC account.
The biggest beneficiary of this Houdini act performed by Shahzad Akbar is our real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz. He is perhaps today the biggest recipient of the so-called NRO in Pakistan which the PM has been reiterating day in and day out that he would never ‘give’.
But then why does the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan suddenly take one his more than routine U-turns on the issue of NRO to oblige a tycoon who has on a number of occasions publicly confessed to having bribed his (I attach wheels to stuck up files) way to financial successes?
So far, no one has given any plausible answer to this question. The usual culprit is supposed to be the so-called ATM of the PM, Jahangir Tareen. He is supposed to have sent Shahzad Akbar to UK to do the needful. And Akbar spent almost three months in the UK just to accomplish the miracle.
Another plausible explanation is that the real estate tycoon has promised to help turn PM’s dream of constructing millions of houses for poor people into a reality. But then Malik is known to build resplendently rich Bahria Towns all over the country and not cheap housing colonies. At best, he is known to have set up langers (Soup kitchens) for poor people under the shadow of each of his Bahria Towns.
But one would once again ask the Supreme Court how could it accept from Malik Riaz, without question, tainted money as part of a fine it had imposed on the land grabbing offender. More so, when the money meant for the treasury lands into SC account.
And if the amount has landed in the SC account then how could it be used for social welfare as is being stated by our own Houdini. The money actually belongs to the Sindh government as it was Sindh land that the land grabber is supposed to have grabbed at a throw away price.
The author is a senior journalist and editor.