Kingsley Napley, the law firm that represents the family of Bahria Town Chairman Malik Riaz Hussain in the U.K., on Wednesday issued a statement saying a confidentiality clause reached between the Government of Pakistan and the National Crime Agency (NCA) has been breached by the incumbent administration’s decision to investigate the matter for alleged corruption.
On Tuesday, the federal cabinet decided to probe why the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government had not submitted to the national exchequer the Rs. 50 billion it had recovered from the business tycoon. In a press conference, several ministers said the funds recovered by the NCA had been returned to Riaz by the then-accountability czar Shehzad Akbar. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah alleged that the recovered amount was adjusted against Bahria Town Karachi’s liabilities.
“As part of the agreement, Bahria Town donated 458 kanals of land to Al-Qadir Trust,” Sanaullah said, suggesting this was “payment” for the money that had been returned to Riaz. He claimed that the land donated to Al Qadir Trust was worth Rs. 530 million, adding the agreement for the transfer of deed was signed by Bushra Bibi, then-premier Imran Khan’s wife.
The federal ministers, during their press interaction, further alleged that the PTI-led government had not had the authority to sign the agreement between Malik Riaz and the NCA or to keep it confidential. “It was an out-of-court settlement, not a defense deal or about the nuclear program. We don’t even know who represented Pakistan in the agreement,” said the interior minister, adding that the PTI government had merely returned money confiscated from Riaz back to him.
In its statement, Kingsley Napley said the Riaz family considered it a matter of considerable regret that the Government of Pakistan had breached a 2019 undertaking provided by it to the NCA and Riaz. It said that the confidential agreement was a result of civil proceedings and any suggestion that it was improper was without foundation, as “the NCA would not have agreed to it otherwise.”
According to the law firm, the confidential agreement, dated Nov. 6, 2019, provided for two key outcomes: “(i) for the NCA to withdraw unconditionally certain civil freezing orders which had been obtained by the NCA over a number of U.K. bank accounts following a letter from the Government of Pakistan to the NCA which made reference to the acquisition in 2007 of the property by Hassan Nawaz, the son of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, and its subsequent sale in 2016 to Hussain’s son; (ii) at the sole direction of the account holders, the contents of those bank accounts to be paid against an existing civil debt owed by Hussain’s business, Bahria Town (Private) Limited. The confidential agreement also made provision for the sale of 1 Hyde Park Place and for the proceeds to be paid against the same civil debt.”
It said the NCA had sought and obtained the approval of the Government of Pakistan prior to entering into the confidential agreement. “The account freezing orders were discharged unconditionally by order of the English court. The agreement itself, and any dispute arising from it, is subject to English law,” it added.
“In substance, the Government of Pakistan promised to keep confidential both the agreement and related information,” it stressed, adding that this was designed to avoid uninformed speculation concerning the underlying facts, and this objective has now been undermined.
“In these circumstances the family wishes to emphasize the following:
- The confidential agreement reached with the NCA arose from civil proceedings. As the NCA explained in its press release when the confidential agreement was entered, ‘[t]he settlement is a civil matter and does not represent a finding of guilt’
- The confidential agreement was entered in the public interest. Both the United Kingdom’s NCA and the Government of Pakistan approved of it.
- Any suggestion that the confidential agreement was in any way improper is without foundation. The NCA would not have agreed to it otherwise,” it said, adding that Bahria Town “wishes to confirm it will continue to uphold the highest ethical standards and to provide an outstanding service to its clients.”