Imran, wife benefited from UK NCA £190m deal: Spotlight on Corruption

Murtaza Ali Shah
Friday, May 26, 2023

LONDON: Former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi apparently benefited personally from the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s £190 million dirty money deal, UK’s Spotlight on Corruption, an anti-corruption NGO, has claimed.

Organisation’s Executive Director Susan Hawley condemned the NCA showing an appalling lack of judgment and transparency by agreeing to a dubious deal with Imran Khan’s government.

She said it appears that the £190 million deal was the result of corrupt dealings with the UK NCA and the Pakistan government. The deal was struck between the UK NCA’s international anticorruption unit and Shahzad Akbar, the PTI government’s former accountability minister, who was authorised by Imran Khan to finalise a deal with the UK authorities.

Speaking to The News, Susan Hawley said the NCA’s secret settlement with the Pakistani business tycoon showed an appalling lack of judgement and transparency by the agency.

She said: “The settlement which the NCA claimed was evidence of its success in tackling international corruption now appears to be the result of corrupt dealings. It was clearly brokered by the government in Pakistan at the time, and apparently benefited Imran Khan and his wife personally.”

According to Susan Hawley, the settlement allowed the tycoon to declare his innocence and avoid liabilities within Pakistan thus giving him almost complete impunity. “It is the people of Pakistan who are the losers in this terrible saga, while the UK continues to be a playground for corrupt elites from Pakistan and other countries with no consequences,” Ms Hawley added.

The issue of £190 million came to the light again as former PM Imran Khan was arrested a few days ago over charges of corruption in what’s called Al-Qadir Trust/UK NCA case and his arrest triggered violence and the subsequent events which have shaken the PTI. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) questioned both Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi last week about the same case, which is threatening the parliamentary political career of Imran Khan.

Imran Khan, along with his wife Bushra Bibi, and other PTI leaders including Shahzad Akbar and Zulfi Bukhari, are facing an inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and the business tycoon, which caused a loss of 190 million pounds to the national exchequer.

According to the accusations, Khan and his wife personally benefited when Rs50 billion (190 million pounds at that time) was transferred by the NCA to the Pakistani government as a condition of the deal with the tycoon.

Imran Khan and his wife got 458 kanals of land in Sohawa from the tycoon to establish Al Qadir University. During the PTI government, United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) seized the tycoon’s assets worth 190 million.

The agency said the assets would be passed to the government of Pakistan and the settlement with the tycoon was “a civil matter, and does not represent a finding of guilt”.

Subsequently, then prime minister Imran Khan get approval of the settlement with the UK crime agency from his cabinet on December 3, 2019, without disclosing the details of the confidential agreement and asking the cabinet that they should approve the deal because it was too sensitive.

It was decided that the money would be submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of the tycoon and not in the State Bank of Pakistan.

Subsequently, Al-Qadir Trust was established in Islamabad a few weeks after the Imran-led government brokered and approved the agreement with the tycoon. PTI leaders Zulfi Bukhari, Babar Awan, Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi, and her close friend Farah Khan were appointed as members of the trust.

It was soon after the approval of the deal by Imran Khan government that the tycoon transferred 458 canals of land to Bukhari, a close aide of the PTI chief, which he later transferred to the trust. Later, Bukhari and Awan opted out as the trustees. That trust is now registered in the name of Khan, Bushra Bibi and Farah Gogi.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials were earlier probing the alleged misuse of powers in the process of recovery of “dirty money” received from the UK crime agency, but following the emergence of irrefutable evidence in the case, the inquiry against Imran, Bushra Bibi, Barrister Shahzad Akbar, and others was converted into the investigation.

The UK NCA said that the £190 million was given to the state of Pakistan and not to any PTI government or individual.