0 21 min 1 yr

2022-02-09 11:58:00

NCA had advised the UK Court on 19 December 2019 that it wanted Belongings Freezing Orders (AFOs) to provoke a high-profile probe into former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman Sharif. Photograph/file

LONDON: The UK’s tremendous anti-corruption drive Nationwide Crime Company (NCA) advised the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 19 December 2019 that it wanted Belongings Freezing Orders (AFOs) to provoke a high-profile investigation into former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman Sharif to “prove or disprove” their alleged involvement in money-laundering, fraud, corrupt practices and misuse of public workplace for the needs of money-laundering, in response to official court papers accessible with this publication.

The revelations are contained within the court papers that haven’t been made public – until now. The Information and Geo Information had reported in November final yr that the NCA has ended a significant money-laundering investigation into Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman with none additional motion and unfreezing of the belongings after discovering no proof of prison conduct, money-laundering and abuse of public workplace. It was then claimed by PM’s adviser on accountability Shehzad Akbar that Shehbaz Sharif was not half of the investigation as a result of his identify was not half of the Order that put aside the AFOs.

The brand new papers, being launched by this publication, clearly demonstrated that the whole investigation was centered on Shehbaz Sharif and his son and their good friend Zulfiqar Ahmed who had made a fee to Shehbaz Sharif’s attorneys at Carter Ruck. The NCA investigated the cash path of two flats owned by Shehbaz Sharif, his related checking account and round £700,000 in Suleman’s accounts which the company thought were laundered from Pakistan by Shehbaz Sharif.

Making an software earlier than the decide on the Westminster Magistrates’ Court for the primary time on December 19, 2019 to freeze 5 financial institution accounts below the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002, the NCA’s senior investigations officer advised the court in categorical phrases that the anti-crime physique had determined to analyze Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman over suspicions of “criminal conduct” of each Sharifs in Pakistan and that their UK funds were “suspected to derive from criminal conduct in Pakistan” and that there was an “overarching” investigation in Pakistan.

The NCA advised the court: “This application is in respect of funds held in the name of, or associated to, Suleman Shahbaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif (officer note: frequently referred to as Shehbaz Sharif/Shahbaz Sharif).”

The accounts that were frozen included Shehbaz Sharif’s shopper account at Carter Ruck solicitors – the attorneys representing Shehbaz Sharif in defamation case in opposition to Day by day Mail – and 4 different accounts linked to Suleman Shehbaz and Zulfiqar Ahmed.

The NCA stated it suspected that the cash that was transferred to Carter Ruck’s account was “in fact deemed to be associated to Suleman Sharif”. After the court granted AFOs to NCA, additional steps were taken to hunt entry to Shehbaz Sharif’s accounts at Barclays Financial institution and Habib Financial institution’s London department as half of the “Frozen Funds” investigation.

The NCA investigator stated within the software to the court: “I suspect that the funds held in the above four accounts to be recoverable property. In brief I suspect that these funds represent, either in whole or in part, the proceeds of criminality of Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman Sharif, which was conducted in Pakistan. I suspect the criminal offences conducted to be that of abuse of position, money laundering and fraud” and that “the funds held within the three accounts for which this application is being made are derived from the alleged criminal conduct in Pakistan”.

The NCA advised the court that “in allegedly moving criminal funds into the UK, Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif have committed offences contrary to s.327, s.328 and s.329 of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002.

The NCA application said that it would investigate Shehbaz Sharif and others under dual criminality rules because “if this conduct had taken place in the UK, it would also constitute criminal offending contrary to: (1)- Common Law: conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office; and conspiracy to cheat the public revenue; (2)- Proceeds of crime act 2002: section 327 – concealing criminal property; section 328 – arrangements in relation to criminal property; and Section 329 – acquisition, use and possession of criminal property; and (3)- Fraud Act 2006: section 2 – Fraud by False Representation; and Section 4 – Fraud by abuse of position.”

The NCA officer advised the court it suspected that “the funds which are intended to be frozen are derived from this criminal conduct in Pakistan, namely accrued from the Sharif Group or by Shehbaz Sharif during his trine as Chief Minister of the Punjab. I suspect that this represents an active attempt by Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif to launder the proceeds of their criminality into the UK”.

In introducing to the court who Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif were and why it supposed to analyze them for the alleged prison conduct of money-laundering, the NCA defined to the decide that Shehbaz Sharif is a “Politically Exposed Person (PEP) and has held a series of political appointments in Pakistan from the early 90s onwards, including president of the PMLN – Nawaz, Chief Minister of Punjab, and leader of the opposition provincial assembly of the Punjab”.

The NCA stated Suleman was Shehbaz’s son who was “currently resident in the UK” and he’s “alleged to be the CEO of the Sharif Group, an industrial group of companies based in Pakistan”.

The NCA software stated: “Shehbaz Sharif is the brother of Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. On the 6th of July 2018, following a series of Pakistan based investigations, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Safdar were convicted of corruption offences in relation to undeclared UK-based assets held through a series of companies. Nawaz Sharif has been previously disqualified for life from political office on the 28th July 2017. Nawaz Sharif was sentenced by the anti-corruption court to 10 years in prison, a fine of $10.6 million was levied against the Sharif family and the seizure of their Avenfield properties was ordered. Nawaz Sharif was further convicted in December 2018 relating to his unexplainable ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia and sentenced to a further 7 years in prison.”

The NCA stated: “Shehbaz Sharif is in-turn currently being investigated by law enforcement agencies in Pakistan relating to allegations of misuse of authority and money laundering. He is currently on court bail in relation to two cases.”

The NCA advised the court that Shehbaz Sharif was “also the subject of main investigation in Pakistan relating to allegations of money-laundering and “Suleman Sharif is also the subject of an investigation in Pakistan relating to allegations of money-laundering” and “he is wanted, having been declared a proclaimed offender and having had arrest warrants, not backed for bail, issued against him by the Accountability Court of Pakistan.

The NCA explained to the court in its “grounds for suspicion” and “criminal conduct of Shehbaz Sharif in Pakistan” that on 11 December 2019 (eight days earlier than it utilized for Belongings Freezing Orders), the NCA acquired a letter from the Belongings Restoration Unit (ARU) of Pakistan. The NCA confirmed to the court that on Monday ninth December 2019 (10 days earlier than the applying on the court) its Operations Supervisor met in London with Mr Shahad Saleem, Director of NAB Lahore, who “gave a background to the investigation into Shehbaz Sharif and the wider family, suggesting that allegations of corruption, bribery and associated money-laundering have been persistent throughout their political prominence in the country” and that “Shahad Saleem indicated that investigator from the NAB would be happy to assist with any subsequent investigation”.

The ARU in a listening to associated to the identical case knowledgeable the court that it had learnt from the NCA on seventh December that monely laundering investigation Shehbaz Sharif will likely be began.

It’s pertinent to say that the NCA relied closely on Day by day Mail’s article by David Rose dated 14 July 2019 which he had printed after visiting Pakistan for a number of days the place he was given entry to detainees who allegedly did money-laundering for the Sharifs. David Rose’s go to happened precisely 5 months earlier than the NCA utilized for AFOs however each David Rose and Shahzad Akbar confirmed within the Day by day Mail article that the NCA was working intently with the Pakistani authorities. Tellingly, Shahzad Akbar thanked the NCA for help and confirmed they were working “closely”.

David Rose had claimed: “Britain’s National Crime Agency is working closely with Pakistani investigators and Home Secretary Sajid Javid is discussing the possible extradition of members of Shahbaz’s family who have taken refuge in London.”

Shehzad Akbar had confirmed to David Rose in the identical article: “We are working closely with the National Crime Agency and the Home Office. We are grateful for this assistance and we hope it will ensure that theft and money-laundering of this magnitude will never happen again.” The NCA advised the court: “The ARU was created by PM Imran Khan to assist in the recovery of criminal assets to the state of Pakistan. This letter has confirmed that Shehbaz Sharif is currently under investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s autonomous federal and anti-corruption agency and was granted bail by the Accountability Court on the 14th February 2019.”

Quoting the ARU’s letter, the NCA advised the court that investigations into Shehbaz Sharif are “in relation to two cases involving the Ashiana Housing Scheme and the Ramzan Sugar Mills. The alleged criminality is that of misuse of authority and associated money-laundering”.

The NCA connected references of information articles in Day by day Mail and several other Pakistani English publications the place allegations of corruption were made in opposition to Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif with the intention to set up earlier than the decide that allegations of prison conduct of Shehbaz Sharif were widespread for a sustained interval.

The NCA introduced as proof the next newspaper headlines in help of its software: Day by day Mail’s article of 14 July 2019 by David Rose into Shehbaz Sharif, ‘Did the family of Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims’; Day by day Telegraph’s article of 24 December 2018, ‘Nawaz Sharif sentenced to seven years in prison in controversial corruption case’; Daybreak’s twenty eighth October 2019 article ‘Suleman Shahbaz declared proclaimed offender in money laundering case’; PM Imran Khan’s accountability adviser Shehzad Akbar’s December 5, 2019, allegations printed in Categorical Tribune: Shehbaz’s wealth multiplied 70 occasions in 10 years, Shahebaz Sharif laundered billions of rupees by a faux firm and {that a} subtle community of money-laundering was run below the patronage of Shehbaz Sharif’; and Samaa’s article of 14 March 2019, ‘Punjab MPAs are paid the least while Balochistan lawmakers earn the most’.

The NCA advised the court that it has made enquiries to determine the precise nature of the assorted investigations into Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif in Pakistan and “Pakistan law enforcement have confirmed they are willing and able to assist in future investigations” about their “criminal conduct”.

The NCA stated within the software that “It is alleged that Suleman Shehbaz and his brother Hamza and his father Shehbaz have illegally accumulated Rs. 3.3 billion equivalent to £16.1 million GBP”. Quoting the Daybreak article, the NCA expanded that “a number of assets of Shehbaz and sons have been seized by the NAB in Pakistan, including “suspects shares amounting to Rs. 2 billion in 16 companies’’, equivalent to £9.8 million, Rs. 4.1 million held in three bank accounts (equal (£20,109) and “£4000 dollars in two different bank accounts of the suspect”. That is along with massive swathes of land owned by Suleman.”

The NCA emphasised on the article written on the fifteenth July 2019 by journalist David Rose which alleged that Shahbaz Sharif and his sons stole DFID funding and laundered it again into the UK. The NCA software stated that David Rose’s article, while needing to be handled with a level of warning, particulars the alleged community of launderers utilized by Shehbaz Sharif and his household together with people primarily based within the UK”.

The NCA knowledgeable the court that its investigating by Her Majesty’s Income and Customs (HMRC) to “ascertain what, if, income has been declared by Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif in the UK” and anticipated that “neither have accrued any legitimate income in the UK which could be the source of these funds”.

The court papers present that the NCA had already carried out an intensive secret investigation into Shehbaz Sharif and his household earlier than getting their belongings frozen in December 2019 on suspicions that every one their funds were proceeds of prison cash laundering.

The NCA advised the court that it didn’t consider that Shehbaz Sharif, Suleman and his spouse Zainab Sharif had any official means of revenue due to this fact their monies were suspected.

The NCA produced visa purposes of three of them and advised the court that Shehbaz Sharif held a ten-year a number of entry go to visa to the UK, issued on the twentieth April 2018 in Islamabad, and he was “not permitted to work in the UK whilst holding this type of visa”.

The NCA confirmed to the court half 4 of Shehbaz Sharif’s visa software kind the place Shehbaz Sharif had listed his employment as Chief Minister Punjab, itemizing a complete month-to-month revenue of £15,300 GBP.

The NCA stated that Punjab Chief Minister’s place “is the same position that the ARU allege he held whilst conducting criminality” and quoted ARU’s letter as saying that “The allegations relate to misuse of authority during his tenure as CM Punjab and the matter is being pursued by the NAB”.

The NCA advised the court that Shehbaz Sharif’s “figure for total monthly income is also assessed to be inaccurate and produced Samaa’s article of March 2019 which suggested that at that time CM Punjab only received a monthly salary of PKR 84,000.

The NCA told the court that Suleman Sharif currently holds Tier 1 Entrepreneur Migrant Visa which was only issued on the 16 August 2019 and prior to that he was in the UK always on a visitor’s visa which meant that he was unable to work on accrue income and therefore unable to own assets or have funds in accounts made through legitimate means.

The NCA produced visa application record of Zainab Suleman, wife of Suleman Sharif, and told the court that the UK issued her a ten-year multiple entry visitor visa on 12 July 2018. The NCA said: “In this application form, she declared that the cost of her trip was £20K and that the source of these funds was ‘my husband is the CEO of Sharif Group of Companies, he can afford to incur my all expenditures while travelling’”.

Quoting the knowledge offered by ARU, the NCA stated that the “Ramzan Sugar Mills is under investigation by the NAB, an investigation in which Shehbaz Sharif is currently on bail, and for which Suleman Shehbaz has had arrest warrants issued”.

The NCA advised the court that ARU’s letter “also alleges that criminal funds were laundered from Pakistan to Dubai and the UK through a series of fake transfers”.

The NCA investigator advised the court: “Given the above and the fact that they have not been able to work legally in the UK, I suspect that the funds which this application relates are the proceeds of the criminality outlined and therefore constitute recoverable property. In summary, both Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif are currently being investigated by the NAB in relation to misuse of authority and associated money laundering offences.”

The NCA knowledgeable the decide that “this application is being made without notice to the respondents (Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Sharif). I believe that providing notice of this application would lead to removal of the funds from the UK and therefore prejudice steps to subsequently forfeit these funds”.

The NCA knowledgeable the court why it’s working with the ARU on these instances. The NCA stated: “The ARU was created by PM Imran Khan under the leadership of his accountability advisor, a barrier and member of the Pakistan cabinet.

The ARU was created to break down inter agency barriers, combine in one pace the discrete powers of the federal agencies; and, prioritize asset recovery in the interests of the govt of Pakistan. The unit is formed of representatives from the NAB, FIA, FBR and the State Bank of Pakistan.”

The NCA advised the court that “there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the money held in the accounts is either recoverable property or is intended by any person for use in unlawful conduct”.

The NCA requested the court to permit the freezing of accounts for 12 months to begin with as it should conduct investigations in Pakistan, UK and Dubai.

The NCA stated: “This will ultimately allow us to prove or disprove if these funds, in whole or party, constitute recoverable property in that they are derived from criminal or intended for use in unlawful conduct.

The investigating agency said: “The freezing of these accounts for a period of 12 months is requested in order to conduct this investigation. Significant enquiries are required to be conducted in Pakistan and this will inestimably take some time. As outlined in the letter received from the ARU, it is alleged that money was laundered from Pakistan to the UK and Dubai. This means enquiries will likely need to be undertaken in Dubai, which again will inevitably lengthen the investigation.”

The NCA investigation continued into Shehbaz Sharif for almost two years because the NCA went again almost 15 years to analyze Shehbaz Sharif’s accounts and monetary affairs and located no proof of prison conduct or fraud. The investigation was shut down in November 2021 after the NCA failed to determine that Shehbaz Sharif and his household were concerned in any variety of wrongdoing, successfully giving Shehbaz Sharif a clear chit.

After investigation for almost two years, the NCA dropped the case and launched all belongings of the Sharifs, after failing to show that the money and belongings were proceeds of prison money-laundering.

Initially printed in

The Information

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *