Malik Riaz eyes media move to protect his name

ISLAMABAD - Property developer Malik Riaz Hussain, a flamboyant tycoon who boasts of connections with top military brass and senior politicians, plans to move into media to protect himself from those who accuse him of wrongdoing.
Riaz is one of the country's richest and most powerful businessmen, a billionaire who has been caught up in corruption investigations and who is also well known for upmarket gated housing communities and charitable activities.
Now the 66-year-old wants to build a media empire, which he hopes he can use to promote his own commercial interests and fend off those trying to tarnish his name.
"I will go into media very soon. I will launch many TV channels, not one," Riaz told Reuters in a rare interview earlier this month at his Bahria Town housing development, just outside Islamabad.
"To stop blackmailers, I have decided that there is no way but to go into media."
Bahria Town features giant replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.
The roads are clean and smooth, grass is imported from Thailand and private guards provide round-the-clock security.
Riaz says he is country's sixth largest taxpayer. He also publicly states that he has paid bribes to top politicians, judges and even members of the intelligence agency.
The publicity wing of the military, which answers for the ISI, declined to comment on Riaz's allegations.
"If I tell you the amount of the biggest bribe I have ever paid, you will have a heart attack," Riaz said.
Malik Riaz also currently faces several investigations by the national corruption watchdog. Among the allegations against him are illegally grabbing land and using favour with politicians to have state-owned property allotted to him at throwaway prices.
When asked about Riaz, the National Accountability Bureau said it did not comment on individual cases.
Riaz denies wrongdoing, and says he needs the platform of television news channels to help defend his reputation.
"I don't want to go into media, but there is no other way to handle this."
He hopes a presence in country's young and boisterous news sector could also highlight his charitable contributions.
Malik Riaz previously held the licence to Bol TV, a fledgling news channel, before he transferred it to software company Axact in 2013, documents from the national media regulatory body show. Malik Riaz denies ever being involved in Bol.
The channel was closed last year after the government launched an inquiry into Axact's business practices.
Currently, he has five joint development projects with the army spread over thousands of acres. Recent chatter among country's elite suggests that Malik Riaz may be losing his influence with the military. The military declined to comment.
Malik Riaz dismissed such rumours.
"If I didn't have relations with Raheel Sharif, the joint ventures would have shut down, wouldn't they?" he said.
"I am friends with the army, I am friends with the institution."

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