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Altaf arrested in London, Hamza in Lahore

Top Story

June 12, 2019

LONDON/LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The MQM founder Altaf Hussain was arrested by Scotland Yard in an early morning raid on Tuesday in relation to the hate speech investigation, while the NAB arrested opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz from the courtroom after the LHC dismissed his bail petitions intwo cases regarding money-laundering and holding assets beyond means.

Elsewhere, in Islamabad, an accountability court granted the National Accountability Bureau 10-day physical remand of former president Asif Ali Zardari. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain was taken to the Southwark Police Station where he was in detention at the time of filing of this report.

Fifteen officers took part in a dawn raid at his north London home. The details of Altaf Hussain’s arrest were released in an exclusive transmission on Geo News. Also to the credit of Geo News is the story about first arrest of Altaf Hussain in money-laundering case and also the raids on his properties.

Altaf Hussain has been arrested in relation to the hate speech of 2016 in which he had urged his followers to take the law into their own hands. The MQM sources have confirmed that Altaf Hussain was arrested. In a statement, Scotland Yard said an individual associated with the MQM had been arrested on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting offences contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.

Section 44 relates to intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence

(1) A person commits an offence if—

(a) He does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence; and

(b) He intends to encourage or assist its commission.

(2) But he is not to be taken to have intended to encourage or assist the commission of an offence merely because such encouragement or assistance was a foreseeable consequence of his act.

A forensic unit of Scotland Yard is searching the residence of Altaf Hussain and the MQM's International Secretariat. The MQM legal adviser Adil Ghaffar may also be questioned by police.

In 2017, Scotland Yard had sent a letter under ‘Mutual Legal Assistance’ to Pakistan in relation to two speeches made by the MQM founder on March 11, 2015 and August 22, 2016.

Both the Crown Prosecution Service and Metropolitan Police Services had confirmed that a criminal investigation had started against Altaf Hussain. The police said that Altaf Hussain was arrested on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting offences contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007. He was detained under PACE and taken to a South London police station, where he currently remains in police custody.

As part of the investigation, officers are carrying out a search at the north-west London address. Detectives are also searching a separate commercial address in north-west London.

The investigation, which is being led by officers from the Met's Counter Terrorism Command, is focused on a speech broadcast in August 2016 by an individual associated with the MQM movement in Pakistan as well as other speeches previously broadcast by the same person. Throughout the investigation, officers have been liaising with Pakistani authorities in relation to our ongoing enquiries.

The MQM spokesman Qasim Raza confirmed that he had been taken in for questioning.

From his self-imposed exile in London, Altaf Hussain has been addressing crowds of supporters in Pakistan via telephone. Altaf Hussain has always maintained his innocence.

In Lahore, the NAB arrested Hamza Shahbaz from the courtroom after a two-member Lahore High Court bench dismissed as withdrawn his bail petitions in two cases.

Hamza’s legal team decided to withdraw the bail applications after the court rejected their plea to provide report of Financial Monitoring Unit. A legal team comprising Salman Aslam Butt, Azam Nazir Tarar and Amjad Pervez was also present to represent Hamza while Jahanzeb Bharwana led NAB’s prosecution team.

As the hearing commenced, NAB Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Bharwana told the court that seven call-up notices were sent to Hamza, but he did not appear. He furnished a report which suggested that Hamza established 12 companies with ill-gotten money and operated fake bank accounts.

The prosecutor told the bench that Hamza received over Rs2 billion as foreign remittances through suspicious banking transactions. He further told the bench that the accused made four appearances before the investigating officer but failed to justify the amount of foreign remittances and business affairs outside the country. The prosecutor stated that 40 persons had been grilled about the use of their bank accounts and all of them denied sending any amount to Hamza. He said Hamza declared assets of worth Rs420 million while Rs180 million of them were received from abroad.

The NAB alleged that Hamza laundered money in the name of fake foreign exchange companies. The prosecutor expressed apprehensions that Hamza could flee the country if he was not arrested. He urged the bench to dismiss the bail pleas of the opposition leader with cost as they were not maintainable. The prosecutor claimed that the PML-N leader and his family were involved in money-laundering. But Justice Naqvi asked him to confine his arguments to the extent of Hamza’s instant bail applications.

Bharwana also presented a report to the bench that claimed that then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif approved construction of a drain in Chiniot with a cost of Rs360 million only to benefit Ramzan Sugar Mills, owned by his sons Hamza and Salman. It said the public funds were misused for the personal benefit of family business of the accused.

Representing Hamza in the money-laundering case, Advocate Butt argued that the report of the FMU was the heart of the case but had not been supplied to the petitioner. The counsel said the petitioner had a right to go through the documents on the basis of which the NAB chairman approved inquiry against him.

Justice Naqvi observed that the relief being sought by the counsel could not be granted at this stage of the case. The bench also dismissed a civil miscellaneous application to this effect and advised the counsel to agitate the point of the FMU report before the trial court. The bench took half an hour break and resumed hearing with Advocate Butt complaining that the bench dismissed the application without hearing him and the prosecution on the point of FMU report.

“Because you are not entitled to this report,” Justice Naqvi told the counsel and asked him to start arguments on the main case.

However, Butt withdrew the petition saying he could not argue in this situation. Tarar also withdrew other bail petition in the sugar mill case. The bench dismissed the petitions as withdrawn.

Responding to NAB assertion, Salman Butt insisted on provision of FMU report, saying he will not extend his arguments without the report. The bench headed by Justice Sayed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi rejected application seeking FMU’s report and asked counsel to conclude his arguments on the bail petition. However, the counsel declined to extend arguments, saying he wanted to withdraw bail petitions of his client.

Conceding to his plea, the court dismissed bail petitions as withdrawn, paving the way for NAB to arrest Hamza in Ramzan Sugar Mills and assets beyond means cases.

The NAB team present inside the courtroom tried to arrest PML-N leader, but the party supporters and lawyers resisted them. The main gate and showcases of the courtroom were smashed as a result of clash.

However, NAB team left the court with Hamza, who was taken to Thokar Niaz Baig offices of the accountability watchdog. Following the arrest, the PML-N workers protested at the GPO Chowk in Lahore and blocked traffic. Later, they dispersed peacefully.

The NAB will present Hamza in an accountability court today (Wednesday) to seek his physical remand.

Extraordinary security arrangements had been taken inside and outside the high court that also caused difficulties to the media persons and litigant public. In Islamabad, an accountability court granted the NAB 10-day physical remand of former president Asif Ali Zardari.

The NAB officials had requested the court for 14-day physical remand of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader. Zardari appeared before the accountability court judge Muhammad Arshad. During proceedings, the NAB requested the court for the physical remand of the former president.

The NAB prosecutor Muzaffar Abbasi informed the court that fake bank accounts were opened with the help of bank officials. Abbasi added that Zardari had been arrested and his remand was necessary for investigation.

Judge Arshad Malik asked the NAB prosecutor that before arresting Zardari why permission was not sought from the court despite the fact that he had already submitted surety bonds for bail in the court. The prosecutor replied that Zardari's bail had been rejected from an upper forum and there was no legal restriction upon department to get permission from the court before arresting the accused.

Zardari requested the court for further facilities in the NAB prison. He also requested for an attendant and medical facilities.

The NAB prosecutor further informed the court that evidence for Zardari’s arrest would be presented. According to the prosecutor, Zardari did money laundering through his frontman.

The court ordered Zardari to be presented on June 21.

At least 500 police personnel were deployed around the federal capital for security purpose. At least 300 policemen were deployed for security purpose outside the NAB headquarters, while roads leading to the accountability court remained closed for all kind of traffic.

On Monday, NAB arrested Zardari in the fake bank accounts case from Islamabad.

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