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Thursday Oct 12 2017

Money-laundering investigation against MQM founder ongoing, says Merchant's lawyer

LONDON: A well-known international law specialist representing a central character in the money–laundering investigation linked with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder has said that the investigation remains “on-going” and all suspects, including the MQM leader and founder, remain “suspects”.

In an exclusive interview, lawyer Toby Cadman said that he had been informed by a Scotland Yard officer, who has been in charge of the MQM money-laundering file, that “its an on-going investigation”. 

Toby Cadman spoke to Geo News outside the Charing Cross Police Station where he met the police and submitted the First Information Report (FIR) that has been registered by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Karachi on the request of MQM leader’s former aide Sarfraz Merchant.

Merchant was also accused of money-laundering for the MQM leader by the Metropolitan Police and remained on police bail along with the other leaders of the MQM.

“It’s an ongoing investigation. I spoke to officer incharge of the case over the last couple of days and he has informed me that those who were suspects in the original money-laundering case remain suspects in the ongoing investigation. This morning, I have given to the police a copy of the FIA’s FIR and other documents related to the ongoing investigation involving Pakistani political party MQM and its leader. I am representing Mr. Sarfraz Merchant who recently got this case registered in Pakistan.”

The Metropolitan Police announced in October 2016 that it had been advised by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to drop the money-laundering case as there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the suspects. 

However, Cadman said that what he has given to the police is fresh evidence showing the MQM founder’s involvement in money-laundering. 

“The matter wasn’t taken forward by the police previously because the Met police had considered that there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute, but we believe that that’s not the case and we believe there is sufficient evidence, the FIR details the evidence under the Proceeds of Crime Act in the UK."

"We will be working with the Met police to ensure that the investigation is taken forward and those who are responsible for criminal conduct are prosecuted," added the lawyer. 

He said the latest file presented to the police has “facts set out by his client Mr. Sarfraz Merchant. There’s proof of on-going cooperation between the UK and Pakistan and we will try to facilitate so that this matter is properly investigated and prosecuted”.

Cadman also said there is a strong case for the prosecution in the MQM related money-laundering case but “whether that investigation takes place in the UK or Pakistan is a matter for the Pakistani and the British governments to consider”. 

However, Cadman said that the main suspect in the money-laundering case – MQM’s leader – is in the UK and resides here, “it's our position that there is a proper basis for him to be prosecuted in this country, there is a proper basis for him to be prosecuted in the UK”.

The lawyer further said there is sufficient evidence in the money-laundering case and “if there is lack of evidence in the original filing then we will make sure that the authorities in this country – the police and the CPS – have all the information available to them which includes documentation, reports, video evidence and everything else which is relevant to different aspects of investigation.

Answering a question about hate speeches made by the MQM founder from his base in London, Cadman hoped that Pakistan and the UK will cooperate in the hate speech matter as the CPS has asked for specific evidence from Pakistan recently. 

He said that the MQM leader has been involved in hate speeches and clear evidence exists of that. 

“There is certainly a basis for the speeches he has given, videos and words, there is certainly sufficient basis to charge him for incitement. Of course, it will be a matter for careful analysis for the prosecutors to determine if these speeches cross the threshold of criminal conduct over acts of incitement and violence. Our position, on the basis of what we have seen so far, is that there is sufficient evidence to investigate and potentially charge on that basis. Of course, that’s a matter for the Met police but we will provide them with detailed transcripts of all the speeches he has given to ensure that its properly investigated.”

The lawyer said many people have been jailed in the UK for inciting violence and terror and the party founder's case is no different. 

“Comparing it to other cases that we have seen in the United Kingdom where individuals have been prosecuted for incitement and acts of terror, we have a number of cases that have been prosecuted in this country in relation to Syria, Iraq and elsewhere where individuals have pledged support to designated terrorist organisations so this is not a novel area of law, this is an aspect of criminal conduct in this country and that has a deep history so it’s really going to be matter of analysing the evidence that we can put to the Met police and of course we will cooperate with the Pakistani authorities in providing as much info as possible and that’s for the police and the Met to decide.

Toby Cadman, who is working as Sarfraz Merchant's counsel, said that he was representing Merchant as he believed that his client is a victim. 

“My client filed the FIR in Pakistan. He was named as a suspect originally, he remains a suspect at this time but he is cooperating fully with authorities in Pakistan and the UK. He shouldn’t be considered a suspect but a victim, at no stage, has he engaged in criminal conduct and that’s the reason he has cooperated with authorities here and in Pakistan.”

William Clegg QC had previously represented Sarfraz Merchant in the money-laundering case hearings at the Hammersmith Magistrate’s Court.


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