Pakistan tycoon hands over $248m to settle UK corruption probe

UK's National Crime Agency says assets and cash frozen in the country will be handed over to Pakistani government.

    The UK agency said the assets would be passed to the government of Pakistan, which has been spearheading an anti-corruption campaign [File: Caren Firouz/Reuters]
    The UK agency said the assets would be passed to the government of Pakistan, which has been spearheading an anti-corruption campaign [File: Caren Firouz/Reuters]

    Malik Riaz Hussain, a Pakistani real estate tycoon, has agreed to hand over 190 million pounds (approximately $248m) held in the United Kingdom to settle a corruption investigation.

    Hussain, one of Pakistan's richest and most powerful businessmen and one of the country's biggest private employers, built upmarket housing complexes. He is accused of fraud and corruption.

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    Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) said it has agreed to a settlement in which Hussain would hand over his 1 Hyde Park Place property, valued at 50 million pounds (approximately $65m), and cash frozen in the British bank accounts.

    The NCA had previously secured nine freezing orders covering 140 million pounds (approximately $182m) in the accounts on the grounds that the money may have been acquired illegally.

    Anti-corruption drive

    The agency said the assets would be passed to the government of Pakistan, which has been spearheading an anti-corruption campaign since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power last year.

    The NCA, however, said that the settlement with Hussain was "a civil matter, and does not represent a finding of guilt".

    Hussain, who also supports charitable causes in the South Asian nation of 200 million, quoted this line in a tweet, which also included the NCA statement.

    "Some habituals are twisting the NCA report 180 degrees to throw mud at me," he posted.

    The settlement will help Khan's anti-corruption drive, which has so far failed to bring back the billions of dollars that his government accuses the opposition politicians of stashing abroad.

    Pakistani journalist and commentator Zarrar Khuhro said it was a "monumental moment" for Pakistan government's anti-corruption drive.

    "However, it was a little odd that the government has not, as yet, claimed credit for this or shouted it from the rooftops as one would expect them to do," he told Al Jazeera.

    According to the Financial Times newspaper, UK Land Registry records show the Hyde Park property was purchased for £42.5m (approximately $55m) in 2016 from the son of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

    Pakistani media outlet ARY News said the property was sold in March 2016, weeks before a set of  controversial documents implicating many global leaders and businessmen, known as the Panama Papers, became public.

    Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 on corruption charges linked to the Panama Papers revelations regarding his family's properties outside Pakistan.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies