UK agency takes possession of tycoon’s property in London


LONDON: A day after news of British authorities accepting £190 million settlement offer from the family of Malik Riaz made international headlines, the National Crime Agency (NCA) — which spearheaded the investigation into the real estate magnate’s assets in the United Kingdom — issued a statement which contradicted his stance on the sale of the Hyde Park flat in question.

A day earlier, Mr Riaz tweeted that he sold his UK property in order to fund the Supreme Court-mandated offer in the Bahria Town Karachi case. Mr Riaz had said: “I sold our legal & declared property in UK to pay 190M £ to Supreme Court Pakistan against Bahria Town Karachi.”

However, when asked to clarify whether or not the proceeds of the settlement are a result of a sale made by Mr Riaz, a senior communications officer of the NCA told Dawn via email: “The NCA has taken ownership of the property and it will be sold with the proceeds going back to Pakistan.”

In the light of this statement, it is evident that possession of the £50 million property in question, namely 1 Hyde Park Place, London, W2 2L, is now with the British crime agency and any funds generated from its sale will be held by the NCA till they are repatriated to the state of Pakistan and not an individual. It is unclear how Mr Riaz plans to use these funds to pay the amount agreed to in the Bahria Town case.

Says proceeds from sale of Hyde Park flat will go to Pakistan

A spokesperson for Bahria Town did not respond to Dawn’s request for a comment.

In March this year, a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed had accepted a Rs460 billion offer by Bahria Town to implement the court’s judgement which held that the grant of land to the Malir Development Authority by the Sindh government, its exchange with the private land of the developer and anything done under the provisions of the Colonisation of Government Land Act, 1912 by the provincial government were illegal and of no legal existence.

The NCA had said on Tuesday it had accepted an offer of a staggering £190 million from the family of Malik Riaz after a months-long investigation into property and accounts connected to them.

The first record of the NCA’s move to probe the property and assets belonging to Mr Riaz in the UK surfaced in December 2018, shortly after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) came to power. The crime agency in a press release dated Aug 14, 2019 stated: “The NCA has been granted freezing orders on eight bank accounts containing a total of more than £100 million, which is suspected to have derived from bribery and corruption in an overseas nation. Approximately £20m held by a linked individual was frozen following a hearing in December 2018.”

It added that the Account Freezing Orders (AFOs) were obtained at the Westminster Magistrates Court on Aug 12, and that they represented “the largest amount of money frozen using AFOs” since they were introduced under the UK’s Criminal Finances Act 2017.

The development made headlines in major international publications such as The GuardianAl Jazeera and the Financial Times. British dailies reported that Mr Riaz would have to hand over 1 Hyde Park Place, a Grade II listed 16,000sq ft family home overlooking central London’s famous park. One report describes the property as a “10-bedroom mansion that includes a cinema, swimming pool, gym, steam room and spa”.

A search on the UK’s digital land registry reveals that Ultimate Holdings Mgt Ltd (incorporated in the British Virgin Islands) is the registered owner. The document says it shows current information as of Nov 14, 2019 and does not take into account any application made after that date.

According to Land Registry records, the same property was purchased for £42.5m in 2016 from Hasan Nawaz Sharif, the son of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The Sharif family sources told Dawn Hasan Nawaz had no link to the property after it was sold three years earlier.