ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi are neck-deep in a sprawling alleged corruption investigation pertaining to Al Qadir Trust, investigators say.
Talking to The News, sources close to the investigation disclosed that the UK government had uncovered a staggering £140 million in an account held by an individual who is the son of a renowned Pakistani property tycoon, and his wife during the 2018-19 period. The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) promptly froze the funds, suspecting them to be proceeds of crime. Surprisingly, neither this individual nor his wife challenged the account freeze. Following proper legal procedures, the UK government then decided to return the laundered funds to the government of Pakistan in 2019. This decision was announced through a joint press release issued by the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) and the NCA.
The case subsequently made its way to Pakistan’s federal cabinet on December 3, 2019, where it was presented by the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) in a sealed envelope.
The purpose of the presentation was to discuss the return of the funds, which would be channelled into an account overseen by the Registrar of Supreme Court of Pakistan. This particular account was associated with the recovery of a whopping Rs460 billion from the same property tycoon, in connection with fines imposed on a housing scheme in Karachi. “Khan approved the settlement without allowing his cabinet members to read it,” a source familiar with the investigation told The News.
Investigations have revealed that as part of an agreement to return the laundered money, the property tycoon offered a substantial compensation package. This included the transfer of 458 Kanal, 4 Marla and 58 square feet of land in Jhelum, alongside cash amounting to Rs285 million, which was destined for Al-Qadir Trust. The trustees of Al-Qadir Trust included then prime minister Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Bibi, Zulfiqar Bukhari, and Babar Awan. However, it is worth noting that the positions of Babar Awan and Zulfiqar Bukhari were subsequently revoked on April 22, 2020.
In light of these events, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took immediate action by acquiring all relevant documents and commencing an investigation in compliance with the law.
In June 2022, Shehbaz Sharif’s government established a committee to investigate allegations surrounding former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra. The committee was tasked with investigating their alleged involvement in securing billions of rupees from the property tycoon to legitimize a laundered amount of Rs 140 million, which was subsequently identified and repatriated to Pakistan by the UK.
The £140 million funds in question were illicitly transferred to the UK under the guise of a private housing scheme. The NCA managed to trace and seize the funds, invoking the provisions of the UK’s Economic Crimes Act, which mandates the return of such unlawfully obtained amounts to their rightful country of origin, Pakistan. A particularly intriguing aspect of the case is the occurrence of an out-of-court settlement that transpired amidst ongoing legal proceedings. As a result of this settlement, the diverted funds originally intended for the Pakistani government were instead bestowed upon the very individual who had incurred the fine.
The circumstances surrounding the representation of Pakistan in the settlement also remain mysterious. The law explicitly designates only the Attorney General of Pakistan or the Ministry of Law as authorized signatories for international agreements and contracts. Curiously, no documents in the possession of either the Attorney General or the Ministry of Law indicate that any individual had been granted the authority to travel to England and negotiate the settlement.
Further, investigators believe that Shahzad Akbar acted as a broker for Imran Khan and secured £5 million in commission for his role in the settlement.