PM’s aide on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said on Thursday that it was not important to divulge details of Malik Riaz family’s settlement with the UK’s National Crime Agency.
The statement followed repatriation of funds to the national kitty after the real estate tycoon gave up his frozen accounts and London property as part of the settlement.
“It’s not important how the funds were taken out of Pakistan,” Akbar said at a press conference in Islamabad. “However, the fact that we have gotten our money stashed abroad for the first time is important.”
He said they were bound by the agreement with the NCA and the UK government to not share details of the case.
“It was the first time in the history that our money was recovered from foreign accounts, thanks to our partnership with the UK government on justice and accountability matters,” the PM’s aide said.
Riaz, the owner of Bahria Town and one of the biggest private sector employers in Pakistan, denied speculations about the criminal nature of the case.
“Some habituals are twisting the NCA report 180 degrees to throw mud at me,” the property tycoon said on Twitter.
“I sold our legal and declared property in [the] UK to pay 190m pounds to the Supreme Court Pakistan against Bahria Town Karachi.”
But in another tweet, he contradicted his earlier statement. Riaz admitted there was, in fact, a case to begin with the freezing of accounts and confiscation of property.
Both of which he eventually gave up as part of the settlement. This raises a concern as how selling the property to settle one case is the same as giving up that very property clubbed with flagged accounts in the settlement of another case abroad.
Riaz stated further: “[The] NCA press release says the settlement is a civil matter and does not represent a finding of guilt.”
The statement by Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed that the cabinet had decided not to comment on the matter is also worth noting. The minister said so on a Dawn News show Wednesday.
This, coupled with the silence of other key members in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet, has stirred a debate on social media whether the government was trying to suppress the matter.
The silence of the PTI government, otherwise keen on labeling its political rivals ‘corrupt’ and ‘money launderers’ even before trials, has surprised some analysts too.
Khurram Hussain, an economic analyst and TV commentator, wrote, “It [the PTI government] tries to absolve Malik Riaz by saying ‘the settlement is a civil matter and does not represent a finding of guilt’.”
The whole matter follows a press statement published by the NCA on its website Tuesday. It briefly described the developments on the freezing of flagged accounts worth around £140 million in August 2019 and a 1 Hyde Park property valued at £50 million, which make up the total £190 million repatriated to Pakistan.