In a major development, an accountability court in Islamabad on Friday summoned co-accused in a £190 million settlement case — former accountability czar Shahzad Akbar, Zulfiqar Bukhari, Farhat Shahzadi aka Farah Gogi and others — by advertisements.
Incarcerated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supremo and deposed prime minister Imran Khan, who was ousted from power via a no-confidence motion in April last year, is facing charges of corruption of billions of rupees in a case also involving a property tycoon.
Khan — along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders — are facing a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry related to a settlement between the then-PTI government and the property tycoon, which reportedly caused a loss of £190 million to the national exchequer.
Irked by the suspects’ prolonged absence from the court’s proceedings, the judge ordered to summon the accused via advertisements. Later, the advertisements against the co-accused in the case have been pasted outside the judicial complex.
The court has ordered the co-accused in the case to appear before the court on January 6, 2024.
It is pertinent to mention here that currently, Akbar is in the United Kingdom. Last month, Akbar came under an acid attack, confirmed the UK police.
In a statement, Hertfordshire police said that they were contacted by the ambulance service just before 4:45pm on November 26 of reports of an assault in Royston — around 50 miles out of London where Akbar now lives with his wife and two daughters.
Gogi — a close friend of former first lady Bushra Bibi — reportedly left for Dubai on April 5 last year, say sources. Zulfiqar Bukhari had left the country after a case was registered against him in March this year.
Last week, NAB filed a corruption reference against ousted PM Khan, his wife and other suspects in the £190 million settlement case.
The reference was filed by NAB’s Deputy Prosecutor General Muzafar Abbasi, along with investigative officer Umar Nadeem, in an accountability court in Islamabad. The registrar's office is examining the reference.
Apart from Imran Khan and his wife, other suspects named in the reference are PTI leaders Bukhari, Akbar, lawyer Barrister Zia-ul-Mustafa Nazeer and three others.
In total 8 people have been named in the reference.
The filing of the reference comes days after the federal cabinet gave the go-ahead to conduct the jail trial of the PTI chairman in corruption cases.
According to The News, the cabinet summary, moved by the Ministry of Law and Justice, was approved via circulation.
The anti-graft watchdog had requested the ministry to allow the trial to be held in Adiala jail considering the law and order situation.
The ministry had already issued a notification on the trial of the PTI chairman in the £190 million National Crime Agency (NCA), UK, and Toshakhana case in prison.
According to the notification issued by the ministry on November 28, the accountability court concerned would sit and conduct the trial of the accused in the Central Prison, Adiala.
“The federal government is pleased to accord approval that the accountability court concerned shall sit and conduct the trial of the accused (PTI chairman and former PM) and others in Central Prison, Adiala, with reference to the case regarding misuse of authority/ illegal sale of gifted state assets, etc. under Section 16(b) of NAB Ordinance, 1999,” the notification said.
What is £190 million settlement case?
The PTI founder is facing charges of corruption worth billions of rupees in the Al-Qadir Trust case also involving a property tycoon.
As per the charges, Khan and other accused allegedly adjusted Rs50 billion — £190 million at the time — sent by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to the Pakistani government as part of the agreement with the property tycoon.
They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 kanals of land at Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, to establish Al Qadir University.
During the PTI government, the NCA seized assets worth 190 million pounds from the property tycoon in Britain.
The agency said the assets would be passed to the government of Pakistan and the settlement with the Pakistani property tycoon was “a civil matter, and does not represent a finding of guilt”.
Subsequently, then-prime minister Khan got approval for the settlement with the UK crime agency from his cabinet on December 3, 2019, without disclosing the details of the confidential agreement.
It was decided that the money would be submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of the tycoon.
Subsequently, the Al-Qadir Trust was established in Islamabad a few weeks after the PTI-led government approved the agreement with the property tycoon.
Zulfi Bukhari, Babar Awan, Bushra Bibi, and her close friend Farah Gwere appointed as members of the trust.
Two to three months after the cabinet’s approval, the property tycoon transferred 458 canals of land to Bukhari, a close aide of the PTI founder, 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.
NAB officials were earlier probing the alleged misuse of powers in the process of recovery of “dirty money” received from the UK crime agency.
Following the emergence of "irrefutable evidence" in the case, the inquiry was converted into an investigation.
According to the NAB officials, Khan and his wife obtained land worth billions of rupees from the property tycoon, to build an educational institute, in return for striking a deal to give legal cover to the property tycoon’s black money received from the UK crime agency.