Monday December 04, 2023

Shahzad Akbar holds important meetings in London

March 08, 2020

LONDON: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Accountability chief Shahzad Akbar has held meetings with officials at the Home Office, National Crime Agency (NCA), Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to discuss ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

Officials have confirmed to The News that Shahzad Akbar held three different meetings with officials of the Home Office where issues related to joint operations related to immigration and border violations as well political matters were discussed.

Shahzad Akbar landed in London on Tuesday and held meetings with officials over three days. Barrister Farogh Nasim and the new Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan were also present in London at the same time for meetings on arbitration cases. Barrister Zia Nasim, UK-trained legal advisor to Assets Recovery Unit, accompanied Shahzad Akbar in meetings with the UK officials.

Sources at the Home Office confirmed that meetings took place where issues were discussed and importance of increased cooperation was stressed. The issue of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was not discussed in these meetings as the letter sent by Pakistani government seeking his repatriation is quite recent. The sources said that other issues related to extradition requests came under discussion. A spokesman of Assets Recovery Unit, when contacted, refused to share any details but it is understood that Shahzad Akbar asked the British government for greater cooperation.

During meetings with the NCA officials, both sides agreed to increase cooperation to fight serious and organised crimes. Trusted sources have said that with help from the government of Pakistan, the NCA is looking into the financial deals – heavy transaction and movement of large funds for real estate investments – of over a dozen rich Pakistanis. Both sides have held regular contacts as investigations into the financial affairs continue. Its possible that in coming days, the NCA could take action against some of the rich people if enough evidence is gathered for prosecution or enough grounds for Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs).

Shahzad Akbar heads the Asset Recovery Unit formed in October 2019 by PM Imran Khan to bring back the “looted wealth” from overseas.

UK officials confirm that although there are difficulties in dealing with the white-collar crimes and its difficult to deal with requests of foreign governments and agencies in many instances but they acknowledge that engagement between Pakistan and the UK has significantly become meaningful since Shahzad Akbar joined Imran Khan’s cabinet.

Shahzad Akbar also met officials at the HMRC who work alongside and assist the NCA In tracing the cases of tax evasion and money laundering. Officials in Pakistan and UK are working together to ensure that UK doesn’t become a tax-avoiding haven for investors who, as far Pakistanis are concerned, don’t declare their UK wealth before taxmen in Pakistan.

Trained in the UK in legal field, Shahzad Akbar has quite good understanding of UK’s civil and criminal justice system and he has been able to use his knowledge of the local laws to connect with the UK’s government and legal organisations. More than a decade ago, Akbar worked with UK’s leading rights organization Reprieve as a legal consultant and ran a successful rights campaign in the UK and Europe to highlight the effects of drone strikes in Pakistan by Americans. He had toured the UK and other countries with Noor Khan, a Wazirisatn resident and victims of drone strikes, and successfully highlighted the atrocities from international legal viewpoint.

His interaction with the UK’s govt led to the successful repatriation of GBP 190 million in a recent case involving leading real estate Pakistani tycoon Malik Riaz. There was no finding of the guilt in the case and the matter was civil.

Govt sources said that Farogh Nasim and the new attorney general held meetings with English lawyers dealing with Pakistan’s cases related to arbitration.

Prior to Shahzad Akbar’s visit, Pakistani news cycle got gripped with the news that the PTI govt has written a letter to UK authorities to extradite former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for allegedly violating the 8-week bail by staying in London beyond the allowed time for medical treatment.