Body formed to probe claims Imran was bribed to ‘protect’ real estate firm – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday constituted a committee to probe the alleged involvement of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra in obtaining billions of rupees from a real estate firm for legalizing a laundered amount of Rs50 billion that was identified and returned to the country by the UK during the previous PTI government.

This was revealed in the cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

In a post-cabinet meeting press conference, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah accused Mr Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi of accepting Rs5bn and hundreds of channels from Bahria Town in exchange for protecting the firm in a money laundering case.

“Bahria Town had illegally transferred Rs50bn to a Pakistani national in the UK who was caught by the British National Crime Agency (NCA), which subsequently informed the then PTI government about the laundered money,” he added.

Sana claims ex-PM, wife took Rs5bn, land from Bahria Town for legalizing laundered amount returned by UK

Imran Khan tasked his frontman Shahzad Akbar with resolving the money laundering case. Akbar settled the entire case, and the Rs50bn, which was state property and belonged to the national treasury, was adjusted against Bahria Town’s liability in a case being heard in the Supreme Court, ”Sanaullah explained.

Former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan has repeatedly leveled allegations of money laundering against leaders of the PML-N and PPP; this is for the first time that he is facing similar accusations against himself and his wife.

Briefing the media along with Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik, Minister for Communications Asad Mahmood and Adviser to the PM on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira, Rana Sana said the committee would thoroughly investigate the matter and depending on the findings, pursue the case accordingly.

He further said the “so-called ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ former premier” had got approval for an agreement in a cabinet meeting on Dec 3, 2019 without allowing its members to read it, even though some of them sought a clarification. The issue was also widely reported in the media, he added.

The interior minister claimed that Mr Khan had accepted a graft of Rs5bn as “his share” through Akbar before the case was wrapped up.

“The federal cabinet has formed a sub-committee to investigate the scandal and deal with it as per the law. The case did not just end here. Bahria Town, after its Rs50bn was protected by the government, entered into an agreement and allotted 458 channels with an on-paper value of Rs530 million to a trust owned by Imran and his wife, ”he alleged, adding the housing society donated the land to Al-Qadir Trust, with the agreement bearing signatures of the real estate developer as donor and Bushra Bibi.

The non-profit organization had only two trustees: Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi, he claimed. The minister further said that another 240 channels were transferred to Farah Gogi / Shehzadi.

“Why did Bahria Town transfer 458 channels to the trust and 200 channels in Banigala to Farah Shehzadi,” he questioned, saying the PTI had created an impression that the land was meant for a university, but no charter for any varsity was approved by the Punjab Assembly.

“The cabinet has now made the document public and an inquiry will be conducted into it before the investigators proceed further,” the minister maintained.

He explained that the Rs50bn was identified by the British authorities under their Economic Crime Act according to which it had to be returned to the country it belonged to. The suspects entered into an out-of-court settlement while the case was being heard, he added.

However, who represented Pakistan in the settlement was still a mystery, he said, adding the country could only be represented by the attorney general or law ministry. But there was no document in either office that indicated someone was authorized to go to the UK for the purpose. As per the settlement, the amount was to be returned to the government of Pakistan, but it was deposited in the account of the Supreme Court registrar, he went on to say.

The interior minister reiterated that the amount was then ‘legalized’ through the approval of the cabinet, which agreed to something concealed in a letter – presented to the PM by his special assistant Akbar even though under the law no SAPM could move a summary – without allowing the members to read it. He added that no document existed in the ministries of interior, finance, foreign affairs or the attorney general’s office about this clearance.

NCA-Malik Riaz settlement

The UK’s NCA had in December 2019 agreed to a settlement worth £ 190m with the family of property tycoon Malik Riaz, the founder of Bahria Town. The agency had said it accepted the offer after a months-long investigation into property and accounts connected to the family.

“The £ 190m settlement is the result of an investigation by the NCA into Malik Riaz Hussain, a Pakistani national, whose business is one of the largest private sector employers in Pakistan,” the agency had said in a statement.

The settlement included a UK property – 1 Hyde Park Place, London, W2 2LH – valued at approximately £ 50m, and all of the funds in the frozen accounts of Riaz.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2022

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