LONDON: Pakistan’s richest man, Malik Riaz Hussain’s visit visa for the United Kingdom has been revoked by the UK Home Office and his appeal against the decision has been rejected by the UK Court of Appeal in an investigation that traces its origin to Hasan Nawaz Sharif, the son of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Malik Riaz and his son Ahmed Ali Riaz had filed a judicial review against the Home Office’s decision in the court of Lady Justice Nicola Davies, Lord Justice Nugee and Lord Justice Snowden against the original decision of the Home Office in December 2019 to revoke the visas of Malik Riaz and his family members.
Their visas were revoked at the end of an investigation which saw Malik Riaz agreeing to let go of £190 million in assets and cash in exchange for saving his UK investments of approximately £300 million.
A few days later the NCA announced that it had reached a deal with Malik Riaz Hussain and that he has agreed to return £190 million to the state of Pakistan after failing to satisfy the clear origins of his UK investments including the purchase of the 1 Hyde Park Place mansion from Hasan Nawaz Sharif.
Malik Riaz Hussain is back in news as the UK court’s decision of the immigration bench rejected Malik Riaz’s appeal which means that the billionaire property tycoon cannot enter the United Kingdom. Not many people are aware of the full story of what happened.
It was in December 2014 when Malik Riaz opened discussions with Hasan Nawaz Sharif to purchase the prized Hyde Park Place property from him which was on sale in the market for £45 million as Malik Riaz’s daughter wanted to buy it.
In mid-2015, the exchange was done and through family negotiations, Hasan agreed to sell the property to Malik Riaz at £42.5 million.
The NCA started its inquiry into the deal as soon as the deal of £42.5 million was made but there were also several other transactions of millions of Pounds including from a Dubai bank. The NCA found several large payments had been sent to London from the same bank account totalling tens of millions of pounds in the previous months.
A huge inquiry was opened during which Hasan Nawaz’s accounts were also investigated and the larger property investments of the Malik Riaz family.
According to papers, Hasan Nawaz’s accountants paid £26 million to the bank in repayment of debt and kept the remaining amount. The amount into his account was not directly from Malik Riaz but came through his English solicitor’s account after due diligence was made in the 1 Hyde Park Place sale.
Hasan Nawaz’s original investment in the property through a bank loan was also investigated but nothing illegal or suspicious was found.
At the same time, Malik Riaz was told that all his assets in the UK were under investigation and that he should provide the clear origins of the money. Malik Riaz, according to legal sources, was unable to provide a legitimate source for a large part of the money he sent from Dubai to the UK but his lawyers put a strong challenge to save his large property portfolio.
Malik Riaz’s lawyers were unable to satisfy the investigators about the transfers made from Dubai to the UK accounts and found that large sums were deposited in Dubai and UK bank accounts without explanation of their legal origins or proper trail.
While the investigation was in the initial phase, the Dubai bank shut down Malik Riaz’s account and he brought all his money to the UK accounts, according to a source who has worked with Malik Riaz. This created further issues for Malik Riaz once the money had landed in the UK.
The fact that Malik Riaz’s money was returned to him in Pakistan by the government of Pakistan didn’t go down well with the UK’s NCA who have been left embarrassed by the English media on the fact that they ended up returning money to Malik Riaz. The NCA formally protested with the Assets Recovery Unit for breaking the deal with the UK to benefit Malik Riaz.
In Pakistan, the cabinet was told that the matter related to Malik Riaz was sealed and cannot be disclosed. According to sources, the decision was taken because the disclosure would show that Hasan Nawaz Sharif has been cleared in the investigation and it would also show the full extent of what the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government did on behalf of the property tycoon.
After the NCA recommended to the Home Office that Malik Riaz and his family’s visas should be revoked, the visas were revoked and the Maliks were informed who hired lawyers to appeal.
Now, their appeal to reinstate visas has been turned down.
The immigration bench held: “Whilst there has not been a criminal conviction against you I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you have been involved in corruption and financial/commercial misconduct. As a result, having regards to the UK’s commitment to combat corruption and financial crime, I believe that your exclusion from the UK is conducive to the public good due to your conduct, character and associations.”
Sources revealed that one of Malik Riaz’s daughters was adamant about buying the uber-luxurious property featuring a swimming pool, gym, sauna and 10 bedrooms which is also a Grade II listed property.
The investigation against Malik Riaz can be compared to an investigation against Mian Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Shehbaz in the UK since both parties were investigated under the Proceeds of Crime Act by the same unit that investigated Malik Riaz.
While Malik Riaz’s visa has been cancelled, both Mian Shehbaz Sharif and Suleman Shehbaz are free to travel to the United Kingdom since no wrongdoing has been found against them after two years of investigation in their affairs.
If NCA had found Shahbaz Sharif and Suleman’s assets as made from proceeds of corruption or unclean money, the UK would have cancelled their visas too by taking possession of some of their assets but their investigation didn’t find that any criminality had occurred under the Proceeds of Crime Act investigation.
British tabloid Daily Mail reported that Shehbaz Sharif had been involved in the misappropriation of funds from DFID, however, Daily Mail was sued by Shehbaz Sharif and lost the meaning hearing against the Pakistani politician.