ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) grilled National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Thursday for giving ‘undue favours’ to property tycoon Malik Riaz by allowing him to pay Rs460 billion as fine to the Supreme Court through the crime proceeds of £140 million that the British National Crime Agency (NCA) had returned to Pakistan.

In March 2019, the Supreme Court had accepted an offer of Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd — owned by Mr Riaz — to settle cases pertaining to its Malir or Karachi Superhighway project in lieu of payment of Rs460bn.

Justice Iqbal briefed the PAC on his four-year performance as the NAB chief and requested the lawmakers not to clip the wings of the anti-graft body. The PAC meeting was convened in the Parliament House under the chairmanship of Rana Tanveer Hussain of the PML-N.

NAB Director General (Headquarters) Husnain Ahmed provided the details of Malik Riaz’s out-of-court settlement with the NCA, stating: “The amount recovered from the Riaz family in London in November 2019 was approximately £140m. All of this was transferred to an account administered by the Supreme Court.”

The bureau informed the PAC that out of the £190m settlement, the NCA returned £140m, while the remaining was the value of the immovable property confiscated from Riaz, which was yet to be received.

PML-N leader Khwaja Asif questioned how the crime proceeds retrieved from the NCA could be given to the accused to pay his fine. He was of the view that since the amount was confiscated by the NCA as laundered money and later returned to Pakistan, it belonged to the public exchequer and could only be utilised for the public. “You returned the crime proceeds to a criminal,” he added.

On a PAC query, Justice Iqbal feigned ignorance over the issue, but said since the amount had been deposited to the Supreme Court’s account, he could respond after verifying facts with the apex court administration in a fortnight.

Informed sources said the amount received from the NCA was deposited to the SC-maintained account with the approval of the then federal cabinet.

Reportedly, former special assistant to the prime minister on accountability Shahzad Akbar had in 2019 discreetly obtained the cabinet’s approval to dispose of the amount received from the British agency.

The NCA investigates money laundering and illicit finances derived from criminal activity in the UK and abroad, and in case of the latter, returns the stolen money to affected states.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2022

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