EXCLUSIVE: NAB Hopeful Of Making Big Breakthrough In Al-Qadir Trust Case

EXCLUSIVE: NAB Hopeful Of Making Big Breakthrough In Al-Qadir Trust Case
Officials are hopeful of making a big breakthrough in the Al-Qadir Trust Property case against former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan. However, most of those hopes are pinned on turning property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain as 'approver' against Imran, sources claim.

Well-placed sources privy to this development have confirmed the development in the Al-Qadir Trust case. Imran and his wife, Bushra Khan were made the trustees of the Al-Qadir Trust, which in turn had set up the Al Qadir University sprawling over 458 kanals of land in the Sohawa Tehsil near Islamabad. The land was donated by Bahria Town. It is alleged that the land was donated in lieu of then prime minister Imran Khan's help in securing the £190 million (Rs50 billion) seized in the UK and returned to Bahria Town in Pakistan.

Others included in the case are former federal overseas minister Zulfiqar Bukhari and former advisor on accountability Shehzad Akbar.

Officials say that the case is considered to be an open and shut case, and if Malik Riaz agrees to testify against Imran Khan, a conviction for the former premier would be all but delivered with a bow on top.

A conviction for graft and gross misuse of power would pave the way for his disqualification from electoral politics for five years, apart from piling on other punitive actions.

What is curious, however, is that the former spymaster Gen Faiz Hameed might also be exposed in this bargain.

"Evidence against the former spymaster, that it was on his [Gen Faiz's] behest that he supported and invested in project Imran Khan by giving undue favours in the shape of funds and other facilities," a senior official with information about the case, said.

What is the Al-Qadir trust case?

The case pertains to Imran Khan's alleged misuse of his authority as prime minister.

He is accused of aiding and abetting the transfer to Pakistan of £190 million allegedly laundered by Malik Riaz and seized in the UK after being determined to be ill-gotten money.

Imran Khan got his cabinet to sign off on a sealed document without offering them the luxury of analyzing what the document was as he approved the transfer of funds from the UK.

As a quid-pro-quo, the property tycoon donated vast swathes of land in Sohawa for the Al-Qadir University, which is managed by the Al-Qadir Trust case.

After his ouster from the government, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) issued a notice to Imran under Section 19 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 (amended by the National Accountability Amendment Act 2022) and other relevant legal provisions.

NAB officials say that the authority has taken notice of the alleged corruption and corrupt practices of Imran Khan and his affiliates as defined under Sections 9(a) (iii), (iv), (vi), (xi), and other offences defined in the relevant schedule of the NAO 1999.

Subsequently, NAB issued summons to Imran for May 16, 2023, which were received by Advocate Ali Ijaz Buttar, a member of Imran's legal team, at Zaman Park on Wednesday, May 17.

National Crime Agency, UK

On December 14, 2018, United Kingdom's premier anti-graft body, the National Crime Agency (NCA), seized approximately £20 million in bank accounts of two Pakistani nationals, Ahmad Ali Riaz and his wife Mubashra Ali Malik, under the UK's Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Subsequently, on August 12, 2019, the NCA froze another £119.7 million located in the bank accounts of property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain and his family. His property, 1-Hyde Park Place, worth nearly £50 million, was also seized under the same law.

NAB sources confirmed that the account freezing orders were secured by NCA at the Westminster Magistrates Court, UK, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

A senior official told The Friday Times that in the note dated December 2, 2019, for the prime minister, it was specifically mentioned in paragraph 10 that the funds are to be repatriated to the exchequer in Pakistan as the money is believed to have been stolen from the Pakistani public.

But the funds never arrived in the designated accounts of the country.

"On December 3, 2019, the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) of the government of Pakistan issued a press release in which it was stated that the National Crime Agency, UK had agreed to the immediate repatriation of funds to the State of Pakistan," said the official, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He further recalled that the NCA had also issued a statement confirming that the UK had agreed to repatriate the frozen funds to the state of Pakistan - but not to Malik Riaz.

Proceeds adjusted against Bahria Town's liability

The senior official added that, as per the records, these funds were adjusted against the liabilities of Bahria Town Ltd. Karachi (BTLK) instead of being repatriated to the government and ultimately to the people.

This was done by transferring the funds into the account designated for depositing the liability of BTLK.

NAB officials confirmed that the record of the funds' transfer revealed that on November 25, 2019, foreign inward remittances worth £116.726 million (more than Rs23 billion) arrived.

On November 26, 2019, this sum fell to £20.006895 million (nearly Rs4 billion).

Then on May 11, 2022, another £34.498795 million (over Rs8 billion) were received from the UK and deposited in the designated account for BTLK's liability.

Role of Shahzad Akbar

NAB officials said that they had informed Imran Khan in writing that after adjustments of funds against liabilities of BTLK and to cover his tracks, Imran's chief anti-corruption czar, his special assistant and head of the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU), Shahzad Akbar, moved a note for the-then prime minister in a sealed envelope.

In connivance with Imran and others, the cabinet's nod for the note was secured. While cabinet members were made complicit in the crime, they were done so without being provided with the facts of what they were signing.

Key among the facts was that the money had already been adjusted against liabilities of BTLK through documents signed on November 6, 2019, nearly a month before the matter came up before the federal cabinet on December 3, 2019. The cabinet's seal had been forcibly obtained to grant legal cover to the move.

NAB officials reiterate that Riaz's money seized in the UK was never held by the state of Pakistan.

The officials further said that Imran's SAPM Shahzad Akbar, in connivance with then-prime minister Khan, presented an unsigned deed of confidentiality before the cabinet, chaired by Khan as prime minister, within a sealed envelope on December 3, 2019.

This was all allegedly done to give and obtain material benefit to Imran Khan, Malik Riaz, Shahzad Akbar, and other accused.

This cost the state and its robbed public billions of rupees.

Land for Al-Qadir Trust

Among its questions, NAB has asked the former prime minister whether he gained any material and monetary benefits from Bahria Town Ltd (BTL) in exchange for smoothing the return of the money from the UK.

In particular, Imran was asked about the source of land measuring 458 kanals and Rs285 million, and a building as well as other benefits disguised as donations to the Al-Qadir University Project Trust, of which Imran and his wife Bushra are named trustees.

NAB further asked Imran why he presided over the federal cabinet meeting on December 3, 2019, wherein he obtained approval from the cabinet on a sealed note.

He was also asked why he did not address the queries raised by his cabinet ministers about the contents of the envelope and the role the PTI government had in it.

Imran, however, failed to satisfy his cabinet colleagues. But he ultimately prevailed and reportedly forced the cabinet to approve the sealed envelope.
This was done to extend the undue benefit to BTLK and deprive the state of Pakistan of billions of rupees recovered in its favour by the UK NCA.

Bahria Town became the sole beneficiary of the entire illegitimate amount, as it was transferred in the account designated, opened and operated for adjustment against the liability of BTLK determined by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in its orders dated March 21, 2019, which was itself passed in continuation of the order dated March 13 of that same year in CMA No. 376-K of 2014, SMC No. 16 of 2011, SMC No. 3 of 2009 and SMC No. 34 of 2018, all pertaining to BTLK.

Imran Khan did not cooperate with inquiry in March 2023

NAB officials recalled that a call-up notice dated March 2, 2023, was issued to the former premier.

However, he neither joined the inquiry nor did he appear before NAB to record his statement.

Imran also failed to provide documents specified by NAB in its notice. Moreover, he failed to furnish specific information required sought by NAB sleuths.

Instead, Imran accused the NAB of raising "frivolous objections" in a written response.

The official said that it betrayed that Imran was "deliberately and willfully" avoiding the NAB inquiry against him.

It can be deduced that Imran is attempting to delay the NAB inquiry as he attempts to force elections in the hope that he will be able to shut down the inquiry if he comes to power.

Al-Qadir Trust: An anti-corruption investigation

Sources confirmed to The Friday Times that multiple call-up notices are served to the former premier and his wife, but they are not cooperating with the accountability watchdog.

In its call-up notices, NAB stated that the allegations of corrupt offences had been "materially substantiated during the course of inquiry", due to which the inquiry has now been converted into an investigation.

"The report of the inquiry has already been provided to you in terms of Section 18 (c) of NAO 1999," the call-up notice read. The notice offered Imran yet another opportunity to appear before the court in person, record his plea - if he has any - and join the investigation to cooperate with the authorities.

Imran has been directed to provide the following documents:

  • Copy of the application of NCA filed before the Court of Westminster Magistrates Court, UK, for freezing of £140 million and 1 Hyde Park Place UK under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

  • Complete record pertaining to defreezing of £140 million and 1 Hyde Park place.
    Accounts Freezing Orders of NCA.

  • Deed of Confidentiality signed on behalf of the Government of Pakistan.

  • Framework agreement/settlement agreement between Malik Riaz Family and NCA UK.

  • Complete correspondence between the Pakistani government and NCA UK regarding the above said matter.

  • Complete correspondence of the PM office with other departments in Pakistan, including ARU.

  • Complete documents, including registration documents of Al-Qadir University Project Trust, Al-Qadir University Project Endowment Fund Trust, and Al-Qadir Trust.

  • Details of donors in these projects, along with details of donations, land transferred, money received etc.

  • Details of donations made by Trustees, including by Imran Khan himself.

  • Complete details of land, building, cash, kinds etc., transferred by BTL to Al-Qadir Trust along with acknowledgement deed and value of land, building, cash, etc.

  • Complete expenditures of Al-Qadir University Project Trust, Al-Qadir University Project Endowment Fund Trust, and Al-Qadir Trust.

  • Bank account details of Al-Qadir Trust and transactions.

  • Approval of Al-Qadir University Trust with Punjab Higher Education Commission.

  • Documents of affiliation of Al-Qadir University Trust with Government College University (GCU).

  • Details of land, cash, gift or any other valuable thing given by Malik Riaz Hussain or any of his family members to any trustee or any cabinet member, as per Khan's knowledge.

  • Trust deeds and acknowledgement of donations deed dated March 24, 2021, between Al-Qadir Trust and BTL, along with any other acknowledgement deed. (if any).

  • Transfer deeds of the properties transferred.

  • All board resolutions of the Trusts, including resolution dated September 15, 2020, along with power of attorney etc.

  • Any additional information/record relevant to the subject case

Imran Khan has been informed in writing that further non-compliance with the NAB investigation would entail penal consequences in accordance with section 2 of the relevant schedule of NAO 1999.

Sources with insider access to Imran Khan's legal team purported that Khan's lawyers also agreed with the assertion that Khan is in 'hot waters' as he may neither be able to provide a satisfactory answer to the accountability watchdog nor be able to furnish the plethora of documents listed above, which he is now required to produce before NAB in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy.