LONDON: The Metropolitan Police’s National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit has submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) containing evidence of suspected money laundering activities of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
Officials at the CPS are now considering whether the evidence against six individuals is strong enough to press charges and go to trial.
The suspects are believed to include MQM chief Altaf Hussain, his two aides — Mohammed Anwar and Tariq Mir — and Pakistani businessman Sarfraz Merchant.
“A case file has now been submitted to the CPS for a decision to be made as to whether there is sufficient [evidence] to support a prosecution at this time,” the police said in an official statement.
The file was submitted in the first week of April but no announcement was made at the time. The CPS confirmed to Dawn that it has received the file.
There would be rapid arrests and a trial if the CPS decides there is enough evidence, and if it decides the evidence is too weak then investigations would stop unless new evidence came to light.
Some of those being investigated in the case had been told by the police that a final decision on charges would be taken on or before April 29. However, the power to decide whether or not to press charges lies entirely with the CPS, which is under no obligation to meet the police deadline.
“This is the first we have heard that the file has been formally submitted to the CPS,” said an MQM official in London. “We continue to cooperate with Metropolitan Police and deny all the allegations against us.”
The news came as Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met British Home Secretary Theresa May. Later, speaking to London’s International Institute of Strategic Studies, the interior minister said he had discussed both the Imran Farooq murder and money laundering cases with his British counterpart.
“I am now satisfied a way forward has been identified on the issue of Imran Farooq murder case and the money laundering issue,” he said. “You will see the way forward in the next few days or couple of weeks.”
And speaking specifically about the Imran Farooq murder case, Chaudhry Nisar insisted that Pakistan had cooperated fully with Scotland Yard. “Pakistan has gone the extra mile to show cooperation,” he said. “We might not have an extradition treaty but the lack of a treaty will not stop me cooperating with the UK.”
The news that the CPS is considering possible prosecutions follows Scotland Yard’s decision in February to release the six suspects in the money laundering investigations from their bail conditions. At the time many believed the UK was preparing to drop the case. But it now seems that the decision was a legal tactic to avoid proceedings in a judicial review requested by one of the suspects, Sarfraz Merchant.
Court documents obtained by Dawn show that in October 2015 Sarfraz Merchant requested a judge to review the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit’s conduct in keeping him on bail for such a long period.
Mr Merchant argued that since he was first granted bail in December 2013 the investigation breached his right to a trial within a reasonable period of time and, because of travel restrictions placed on him, his right to private and family life.
“If there is no decision on charges by April 29 the court says I can go back and demand that the police take a final decision on whether they are pressing charges in this case or not,” Mr Merchant said.
The court documents submitted by his lawyers stated that during their investigations of the murder of Imran Farooq the police found £167,525.92 in the MQM’s offices in London and a further £289,785.32p in Mr Hussain’s home. They also stated that banking documents revealed that Mr Merchant had made substantial money transfers to the MQM. Mr Merchant told the police that the money had been his own and was freely given to the MQM.
Unsure that the British are serious about investigating the MQM, the Pakistan authorities earlier this month formed a joint investigation team to look at Mr Merchant’s claims of financial links between Indian intelligence agency RAW and the MQM.
The MQM denied being funded by RAW.
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2016