• Mon. May 22nd, 2023

A critical look at Imran’s ‘defence’ in £190m NCA scandal

KARACHI: There are two cases in which Imran Khan is neither acting on orders of courts nor cooperating in investigations. Courts grant him relief again and again but he ignores their orders. These cases are the Tosha Khana case and the £190 million National Crime Agency scandal and Al-Qadir Trust case in which new facts and details are emerging.

The National Accountability Bureau had summoned Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi in the NCA case on May 18, but they did not appear and only submitted their response to the anti-craft watchdog. The Al-Qadir Trust case and the NCA scandal have caused problems for Khan. NAB had earlier arrested Imran Khan in the Al-Qadir Trust case on May 9. However, his arrest was declared illegal by the Supreme Court and subsequently the Islamabad High Court granted him two-week interim bail in the case. It is pertinent to mention that Khan and the PTI are distorting facts about Britain’s Naitonal Crime Agency’s transfer of £190 million to Pakistan by saying that this money was not supposed to be deposited in the national treasury because the NCA had directly made a deal with a property tycoon, and it is a civil nature dispute between them and the Pakistani government has nothing to do with this matter.

The former adviser to Imran Khan on accountability, Shahzad Akbar, had given a statement after Khan’s arrest that the NCA did not give 190 million pounds to the Pakistani government but deposited the money in the Supreme Court’s account after a settlement with the property tycoon. However, some documents on record show that the 190 million pounds that the property tycoon was top pay in a fine were to be deposited in the national treasury.

The National Crime Agency had mentioned in its press release on December 3, 2019 that these assets would be returned to the Pakistani government, and on the same day Shahzad Akbar-led asset recovery unit also issued a press release saying that the NCA had agreed that this amount would be immediately returned to the Pakistani government.

Besides, Transparency International UK also issued a press release in which it welcomed the return of 190 million pounds to the Pakistani government, and that clearly shows that the NCA, the assets recovery unit and Transparency International had acknowledged on December 3, 2019 that the amount was to be given back to the Pakistani government.

However, the amount was adjusted in the property tycoon’s liability account in the Supreme Court, raising the question whether the state means the Pakistani people and government or the property tycoon.

This matter was not mere a dispute, but the scandal of the way approval was taken in this regard from the federal cabinet has become grimmer.

NAB claimed in its call-up notice sent to Imran Khan that the cabinet had approved sealed documents on December 3, 2019, and prior to that the two installments had been adjusted in the name of the property tycoon in the Supreme Court’s account. However, to give legal cover to this, approval for the sealed documents was taken from the cabinet. The NAB notice shows that on November 25, 2019 more than 116.7 million pounds worth Rs23.3 billion and then on November 26, 2019, an amount of more than 20 million pounds were transferred from the United Kingdom to the said account. After adjusting this amount to the property tycoon’s liability, to cover this illegal design, Special Assistant Shahzad Akbar on December 2, 2019 prepared a note for the prime minister so that Imran Khan and others could conspire to take approval from the cabinet. This and other facts were hidden that on December 3, 2019 before taking approval from the cabinet, instead of being transferred to the State of Pakistan, this amount was adjusted in the liability account of the Supreme Court. Shahzad Akbar also concealed this from the cabinet that this document was signed on November 6, 2019. Now here are some startling facts on how profit was given to a property tycoon by causing loss to the national exchequer and his own cabinet was also kept in the dark.

While getting the document signed by members of the cabinet in an enclosed envelope, this document was not opened nor was it shown to the cabinet members. But the three ministers of Imran Khan’s cabinet have brought out the facts that they were made to sign the envelope without first seeing it. However, Khan himself has put the responsibility of returning the 190 million pounds to the property tycoon on his own cabinet.

Recently, Imran Khan addressed the nation and for the first time he openly gave his stance regarding the scandal of 190 million pounds and the Al-Qader Trust, citing the difference of dates as a reason. He said he had laid down the foundation stone of Al-Qader University in May 2019, while the NCA case, which is under discussion, came to the cabinet after 7 months in December 2019. Therefore, the two matters are not interlinked.

But this position of Imran Khan is against the facts because the case of the property tycoon returning 190 million pounds after the settlement with the UK authorities was indeed revealed in December 2019, but the investigation against him was started in December 2018. And since then this matter had been going on. Their accounts in the UK had started to be frozen and the Tehreek-e-Insaf government was in touch. In this regard, after the arrest of Imran Khan, Shahzad Akbar himself tweeted in the last few days and said: “The British National Crime Agency had received orders to freeze accounts on 14 December 2018 and 12 August 2019 based on suspicion.”

Then, recently NAB also confirmed this in its notice sent to Imran Khan. It was confirmed that this matter had been going on since December 2018.

In addition to this, while these facts have also come to light that after the foundation stone of the university was laid in May 2019, the actual affairs of the trust, i.e. the transfer of the land from the purchase to the registration of the trust, etc., everything started rapidly after December 3, 2019, when Imran Khan’s cabinet gave 190 million pounds to the same property tycoon.

According to Qasim Abbasi’s reports published in The News: “A few days after the cabinet meeting about the real estate firm on December 3, 2019, that is on December 26, 2019, Imran Khan had got registered the trust of the Al-Qadri University Project. Then again, a few months later, the same real estate firm became a donor to the university. A real estate firm in Jhelum just after the registration of the trust deed purchased about 460 kanals of land and transferred it in the name of Zulfi Bukhari. And after becoming a trust, Zulfi Bukhari transferred this land to the name of the trust. Then in March 2021, Bushra Bibi and the real estate firm signed an agreement at Imran Khan’s residence and acknowledged the donation of land and othrer donations, including infrastructure.”

Imran Khan declared this project as his dream project and thus allegedly benefited a property tycoon by causing a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.

And now the Tehreek-e-Insaf and Shahzad Akbar are saying that the Government of Pakistan and the asset recovery unit had nothing to do with the agreement of 190 million pounds or transfer of money, but in 2019, when this money was being transferred to Pakistan, Shahzad Akbar was giving credit to the asset recovery unit and his government and was raising questions about media credibility.

Imran Khan himself is presenting arguments in his defence that “whether the money was going to the account of the Supreme Court or the government, the money was coming to Pakistan”. This is a huge misstatement of Imran Khan because it is not the same thing at all as the Supreme Court imposed a fine of 460 billion rupees on this property tycoon in March 2019 and he is bound to deposit this money in installments in the Supreme Court account. Imran Khan adjusted 190 million pounds, that is 50 billion rupees, which had come from UK, in the form of a fine of the same property tycoon. He does not talk about two but one Pakistan, so the question is: can a common citizen who has to give two fine amounts have the facility to adjust one fine amount with the other?

Apart from this, Imran Khan’s narrative was that he would bring back the looted wealth of Pakistan from abroad. He, while making the asset recovery unit led by Shehzad Akbar had claimed that he will bring back the looted wealth from UK and other countries to Pakistan. On the one hand, Imran Khan was conducting investigations against political opponents in the United Kingdom through the asset recovery unit spending money and they were failing in that, but on the other hand, when the property tycoon’s 190 million pounds were recovered in Britain and handed over to the Government of Pakistan, they put it back in his pocket. That is the money that Imran Khan wanted to bring back, but the money that came did not go to the national treasury; rather, it was put in the pocket of the same person who was caught by the British National Crime Agency that returned the illegal money to the State of Pakistan.

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