The National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK released a statement earlier this week that a settlement has been made with a family that owns large property developments in Pakistan. Business tycoon Malik Riaz, arguably the richest man in the country, had agreed to a £190 settlement with British authorities after an investigation into his frozen funds.
According to the statement, freezing orders for eight of his accounts were secured in August 2019 in connection with funds totaling £120 million. This followed an earlier freezing order in December 2018 for £20 million. All the account freezing orders relate to money held in UK bank accounts before the settlement was reached.
A closer look shows that the settlement includes a property valued at approximately £50 million. This property is the infamous 1 Hyde Park in London, which came to the spotlight during the Panama Papers scandal. The property was owned by Hassan Nawaz, the son of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The younger Sharif eventually sold the apartment in 2016 presumably to Malik Riaz and has now denied that he has any connection to the property.
These assets will be returned back to Pakistan, and if this happens then it would be the first time that such a large amount would be repatriated to the country. There is no rejoicing, but rather deafening silence among officials and federal ministers. Prime Minister Imran Khan has restraint cabinet members from commenting on the issue.
The prime minister’s aide on accountability Shehzad Akbar has also refused to provide any further details stating that the government encourages settlements and does not wish to jail people. He confirmed that Britain agreed to immediately repatriate the funds hailing it as a success story of close cooperation between the two countries.
Eventually, Malik Riaz himself reacted to the media speculations stating that he has not committed any financial wrongdoing neither has he been held guilty for any crime. Despite the NCA stating that settlement was the result of a criminal investigation, the tycoon said that he voluntarily brought the money back to the country and others should bring back their wealth too.
Malik Riaz revealed that the money will be paid to the Supreme Court concerning a settlement over Bahria Town for which he was ordered to pay Rs460 billion on land occupied in Karachi. The lack of clarity in information being circulated and the silence of tight-lipped officials are making the matter murkier but it is still a great achievement that such a large sum of money is being repatriated to the country.