Tuesday Sep 28 2021

NCA investigated Shahbaz Sharif on London flat, loan from businessman

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif addresses a press conference. — AFP/File
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif addresses a press conference. — AFP/File

LONDON: The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) investigated Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in relation to the purchase of a flat in Central London for which he had received a loan from a businessman, it emerged on Tuesday.

The NCA’s International Corruption Unit asked Shahbaz to provide the full money trail with regard to the purchase of flat 2, 30 Upper Berkeley Street, London, W1h 5QE in May 2005, including a loan amount of £59,993 from well-known British Pakistani businessman Aneel Musarrat.

In a letter to Sharif’s lawyer on May 15, 2020, the NCA asked for “additional consent” of both Shahbaz and Suleman to access material related to the conveyance (act of transferring property from one party to another) and the Barclays Bank mortgage arrangement.

The NCA told the lawyers of the Sharifs that it was giving both the father and the son the chance to agree to the consent orders or else the NCA will use its “coercive power of a production order”.

The NCA said that both Conway and Co and Barclays Bank have confirmed they are willing to provide this material and that this was needed to continue this investigation in an expeditious manner.

The NCA demanded “any files filed by Miah Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif or his representatives relating to the conveyance file for the original purchase of flat 2, 30 Upper Berkeley Street, London, W1H 5QF in May 2005". 

"An explanation and supporting documents for the £59,993 contributed towards the purchase of this property in May 2005 by a Mr Musarrat and sufficient details to enable us to contact him in order to verify this” was also demanded.

This correspondent understands that the NCA looked into this payment and found it to be a loan arrangement between two parties. Aneel Musarrat was not available for a comment. 

It is understood that the NCA accessed Musarrat's account as part of its investigation but found nothing illegal in the loan arrangement, the source of funds for the £23,500 deposit paid by Shahbaz towards the property purchase in May 2005 and the source of subsequent mortgage repayments.

The NCA asked for “further details in relation to the cash deposits made into the Barclays account of Suleman Sharif which are referenced as gifts from family members in your letter dated 22 April 2020". 

"A breakdown of each deposit and where it was received from? The origin of the source of each deposit? When and how was this cash transferred or brought to the UK?” stated NCA's inquiry.

On May 16, 2020, Shahbaz issued two consent orders on the advice of his lawyers. His consent note read: “I, Miah Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif give consent to Barclays Bank PLC and Barclays and UK PLC to provide the following material to the NCA in respect of a mortgage acquired by myself in May 2005 for £160,000 in purchase of 2, 30 Upper Berkeley Street” and other matters.

Geo News exclusively reported on Monday that the Westminster Magistrates’ Court has ordered the unfreezing of the bank accounts belonging to the Sharifs after establishing that there was no money-laundering, criminal conduct or fraud.

The NCA also froze the account of businessman Zulfiquar Ahmed after he made a payment to the client account of Carter Ruck solicitors who are representing Shahbaz Sharif in his defamation case against Daily Mail. The NCA investigated Ahmed for making this payment on behalf of Shahbaz to his lawyers.

The UK's top anti-corruption agency filed a unilateral application before Judge Nicholas Rimmer to declare that its two-year high-profile investigation in the jurisdictions of Pakistan, UK and Dubai found no evidence of money laundering and criminal conduct on part of the two Sharifs who were investigated.

Documents obtained by Geo News reveal that the bank accounts of Suleman Sharif were frozen and Shahbaz Sharif’s accounts were probed through a December 17, 2019, court order and both were subjected to high-profile criminal forensic investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), conducted by the NCA’s Investigations Command at the International Corruption Unit.

Their accounts were frozen after the Pakistan government asked the UK to “assist in the recovery of criminal assets to the state of Pakistan”, triggering a wide-ranging investigation.