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Friday May 24, 2024

IHC reserves verdict on Imran Khan's bail plea in £190m reference

NAB lawyer was questioned about evidence of out-of-court settlements by IHC chief justice and Justice Jahangiri

By Awaid Yousafzai
May 14, 2024
Former prime minister Imran Khan arrives at an Islamabad court for a hearing in this file photo. —AFP
Former prime minister Imran Khan arrives at an Islamabad court for a hearing in this file photo. —AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court Tuesday reserved its verdict on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan's bail petition in the £190 million National Crime Agency (NCA) settlement reference.

The case was heard by a two-member bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri. 

National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) special prosecutor Amjad Parvez said while presenting his arguments that the money should have come to the Government of Pakistan.

In its order, the Supreme Court mentioned that the money belonged to the state of Pakistan.

“The amount declared by the Supreme Court was wrongly sent to its account.”

Meanwhile, he added, the Asset Recovery Unit told the prime minister that it was their success in securing this money.

“According to the documents, the money could not have been transferred without the permission of the National Crime Agency,” Pervez said.

Addressing the NAB special prosecutor, the IHC chief justice asked if the money he referred to was proceeds of crime.

Justice Jahangiri, addressing Pervez, remarked: “You don't have any documentation of this, it's all verbal talk. You were earlier asked if you have the order of freezing or de-freezing [the accounts]. You said you don't have any of those documents.”

The NAB lawyer was questioned about evidence of out-of-court settlements by both the judges.

“What will you say about the money transferred before the note given to the prime minister?” asked Justice Jahangiri.

“This money was transferred after the confidentiality deed,” replied the NAB prosecutor, adding that the PTI founder was the head of the Assets Recovery Unit.

It is not written in the confidentiality deed that the money will be deposited in the Supreme Court's account, remarked Justice Jahangiri.

“This confidentiality deed was a huge fraud,” Pervez responded.

The IHC judge then asked how was the deed related to PTI founder.

A public servant cannot accept a gift from a person whose case is pending with him, said NAB counsel.

He also added that “458 kanals of land were purchased and transferred to the name of Zulfi Bukhari.”

The judge asked who transferred the land.

“The land was bought from private people and transferred in the name of Zulfi Bukhari. This happened during Asset Recovery Unit's correspondence with NCA,” the prosecutor said.

He added that Al-Qadir Trust did not exist when the land was transferred.

The chief justice asked when was the trust registered, responding to which the NAB lawyer said that the story of the trust is “very interesting”.

“The whole story is interesting, what is not interesting,” said Justice Jahangiri.

Interacting with journalists in Rawalpindi's Adiala jail a day earlier, the PTI founder said that Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) had seized the amount after finding it “suspicious transactions” but not “money laundering”.

During the PTI government, the NCA seized assets worth £190 million from a property tycoon.

“If the case goes on in the civil court, the money will not return to Pakistan for another five years,” he said, adding that a private party and the UK’s NCA had demanded not to disclose the agreement.

£190 million settlement case

The PTI chairman is facing corruption charges 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 NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and the property tycoon, which reportedly caused a loss of £190 million to the national exchequer.

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 Khan were 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 chief, 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.


More to follow...