ISLAMABAD: A senior government official has claimed that the money recovered from a settlement between real estate tycoon Malik Riaz’s family and the UK government and deposited in the Supreme Court’s account will be used for “social welfare” if the apex court releases the amount to the federal government.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar took to Twitter on Friday stating that of the £190 million, £140m had been transferred to an account of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) in the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP).

Mr Akbar was referring to the bank account set up by the apex court into which Malik Riaz is required to deposit funds as part of a Rs460 billion settlement for the 16,896 acres of land in Malir district on which the Bahria Town Limited Karachi (BTLK) has been built.

“Money is transferred into SCP NBP account. Federal Govt has made an application to SCP for release of this money to the Fed Govt for spending it on social welfare n for poor,” read one of the three tweets of Mr Akbar.

PM’s aide on accountability says govt has signed a confidentiality agreement, can’t divulge much

However, it is not yet clear whether the federal government has made a fresh application to the Supreme Court or Mr Akbar was referring to the request made by the Attorney General’s office over three months ago.

“It is prayed that the entire money deposited by the Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd and held by the Supreme Court may be ordered to be deposited in the ‘public account of the federal government’,” a two-page application submitted to the apex court on Aug 22 said.

A week after the Aug 22 application of the federal government, the Sindh government had also approached the Supreme Court requesting it to transfer the amount of the down payment already deposited by the Bahria Town as well as all the future payments in this regard to the provincial account of the Sindh government so that it could use the funds for its development projects in a transparent manner under the supervision of a dedicated committee to be constituted by the chief minister.

Only on Thursday, Supreme Court Registrar Arif Arbab told BBC Urdu that he got a message from the NBP that the bank wanted to deposit funds in the SC’s account opened for the recovery of Rs460bn from Malik Riaz.

He said that the Supreme Court had nothing to do with the settlement in the Britain and “we are only receiving instalments from the Bahria Town in the light of our [SC] decision”.

Likewise, the State Bank of Pakistan apparently distanced itself from the whole saga as its spokesperson Abid Qamar, when contacted, made it clear that the central bank had no role in the transaction from Britain. He said the ministry of finance was in a better position to tell the detail about the transaction.

On Tuesday, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) agreed to a civil settlement with the family of Malik Riaz. It accepted a settlement offer of £190m, which includes a UK property, valued at approximately £50m, and all of the funds in nine frozen accounts. In an official statement, the NCA had stated that the funds would be handed over to Pakistan.

However, questions were raised as to how the money from the settlement came to Pakistan.

“For sake of clarity on £190 million settlement, money transferred is under a ‘Settlement Agreement’ b/w NCA and Riaz family. 9 Assets Freezing Orders were obtained by NCA and after agreeing to settle the matter out of court, £140 million have been transferred to State of Pakistan,” tweeted Mr Akbar, the special assistant to the prime minister.

He insisted that the government could not talk in detail on this issue because of a confidentiality agreement.

“GOP has signed a confidentiality agreement to not divulge beyond this on the matter. GOP has numerous ongoing similar matters with foreign Govts including UK n expecting recovering hundreds of millions dollars therefore cannot afford violating its commitment of confidentiality,” he tweeted.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2019