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Tuesday Nov 23 2021
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SFO’s 15-year investigation of Nisar Afzal's case ends for failing to meet prosecution test

Photo provided by the author
Photo provided by the author

  • SFO confirms it withdrew the arrest warrant for Nisar Afzal and closed the investigation.
  • Birmingham Mortgage Fraud case was one of the biggest cases of its nature in UK history.
  • Nisar had left for Pakistan in 2006 at the start of the investigation, alleging that he was wrongly framed in the case.


LONDON: The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has decided to close a high-profile, 15-year-long pursuit of British-Pakistani businessman Nisar Afzal after concluding that an investigation involving a £50 million mortgage fraud no longer met the test of prosecution as defined in the UK’s Code for Crown Prosecutors.

The SFO has told The News that as per the terms of the Code for Crown Prosecutors, there must either be sufficient evidence to convict an accused in court or it should be in the public interest to prosecute.

The SFO confirmed that it withdrew the arrest warrant for Nisar Afzal and closed the investigation “on the basis of the Test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors”, not on “evidential grounds”.

The Birmingham Mortgage Fraud case was one of the biggest cases of its nature in UK history. Nisar had left for Pakistan in 2006 at the start of the investigation, alleging that he was "wrongly framed in the case in a high profile conspiracy and that he would not get justice in the given circumstances."

He was ultimately never charged and he continued to claim innocence from Pakistan through his UK lawyers.

The SFO has now confirmed that Restraining Orders, first secured on July 24, 2006, have been discharged and “there are no proceedings by the SFO” against him anymore.

An arrest warrant, secured at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court against Afzal on October 29, 2010, has also been withdrawn by the director of the SFO under the Criminal Justice Act of 1987.

The Southwark Crown Court ordered the release of the Restraining Orders and discharging of the arrest warrant after the SFO made an application to the court saying it will not pursue the criminal case against Nisar Afzal anymore and planned to close the file.

The £50m Birmingham mortgage fraud took place between 2004 and 2006. The Westminster Magistrates' Court had subsequently ordered the forfeiture of all funds held in Afzal's bank account at the start of the investigation. The funds, too, have been released.

Nisar himself was never charged for the allegations on which his brother was ultimately convicted. The SFO had wanted Nisar to return to the UK first to face trial. However, Nisar had continued to stress that he would return only if the SFO confirmed in writing that it had completed its investigations in the UK and Pakistan, covering every aspect of the case with full verification.

Nisar’s lawyers had argued that it was deeply unfair and unjust that the matter was not being investigated and that the defence, which was capable of exonerating Nisar Afzal, was not being obtained as that would help a fair trial and help uphold the rule of law.

The lawyers had further argued that the actions taken by the SFO were “abuse of process” and that Nisar was ready to be prosecuted but only once the full evidence had been gathered.

Meanwhile, Nisar’s brother Saghir Afzal was jailed for 10 years in 2011, around the time Nisar Afzal was kidnapped in Pakistan. Saghir’s lawyers had told the Court of Appeal that Saghir was never involved in any criminal act, but had pleaded guilty under extreme duress. 

On the other hand, the SFO had said “the UK legal system has robust safeguards to ensure an individual is not placed under duress. Defendants are free to enter a plea on the basis of an informed decision with legal counsel, and with a judge overseeing the judicial process”.

Saghir was sentenced to an additional 10 years for failing to pay a near 30 million pound confiscation order within six months.