LONDON - As the federal cabinet is likely to take up the report of its committee on a ‘confidential’ agreement between the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain regarding repatriation of assets worth 190 million UK pounds (Rs 50 billion) today, this report will lack confronting Barrister Shahzad Akbar, the former Chairman ARU and Advisor on Accountability and Interior, who was at the heart of this controversy.

Interestingly, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has also initiated an inquiry into the same matter and has summoned the former advisor to then prime minister Imran Khan on August 17 for the third time.

Barrister Shahzad Akbar, who had left the country in late April 2022 for London, wrote on 4 August 2022 to the investigating officer offering to appear through video link, pointing out the lack of jurisdiction of NAB on the matter.

The top anti-corruption watchdog while ignoring the communication summoned the former accountability advisor once again for tomorrow. The Nation has an exclusive copy of the correspondence wherein Akbar reiterates his inability to appear in person and offers to appear either through video link or from the Pakistan High Commission in London. In his letter, he also alleges that NAB inquiry is nothing more than persecution at the behest of the incumbent government.

“The inquiry into the allegations of misuse of authority, financial gains and criminal breach of trust has revealed that you being chairman Assets Recovery Unity (ARU) initiated summary/note for the approval of Prime Minister regarding repatriation of funds from UK to Pakistan in Ahmad Ali Riaz & Family and M/s Bahria Town (PVT) Ltd case,” according to August 11 NAB summons issued to the ex-advisor.

Akbar has been living in London since April this year after the then prime minister Imran Khan was voted out by the parliament.

Akbar in response to the notice has written a second letter to NAB stating that he was out of the country and would be available for an online/video link interview at any time to record his statement and for the sake of the inquiry. “As I am in London, I can also attend from the Pakistan High Commission in London, if you prefer, and there are precedents to that in the past,” he said in the letter.

Rs150b assets repatriation deal between Riaz Malik, UK NCA

Report to be presented in cabinet today

In June this year, the cabinet had formed a committee headed by Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif to ascertain the alleged role of Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and ex-premier Khan and his wife for allegedly legalizing Rs 50 billion of laundered money that was frozen by UK’s NCA and returned to the then government of PTI through a ‘controversial’ agreement.

Earlier, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan had accused Khan and his wife for getting Rs 5 billion besides hundreds of kanals of land from Bahria Town.

Interestingly, the cabinet committee has summoned and probed some of the staff members of ARU in the case except Akbar. The ex-advisor on July 30 had written to the Secretary Cabinet Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera saying that the subject matter pertained to an agreement independently executed between a private party and the NCA in December 2019, which was outside the purview of the Government of Pakistan.

“However, the Government of Pakistan being privy to certain details of the agreement and correspondence, signed an undertaking (Deed of Confidentiality) given to NCA, ensuring data protection and confidentiality of settlement agreement between the two parties,” reads the letter, a copy of which is also available with The Nation. He said that under the law, it was a past and closed transaction, and if this sub-committee was in the process of breach of any term of this Agreement/Deed, it will be a breach committed by the contractual party.

It is clear from the NAB behaviour that they are not interested in finding the truth about the matter but are acting at the behest of the government, Akbar said in an interview to The Nation. “I have also written to the sub-committee of the cabinet as well which refuses to summon me even.”

He said that fact of the matter was that the agreement was a civil settlement between a Pakistani family and NCA and Pakistan gave an undertaking to Britain for the sake of data protection and confidentiality. “The Government of Pakistan or ARU did not have anything to do with the money frozen or transferred to Pakistan.” The irony is that NAB could easily check from NCA but it is bent upon persecuting the former government and cabinet, he added.