NAB grills Imran Khan in £190m settlement case

PTI Chairman Imran Khan appears before NAB at its Rawalpindi office; investigation team seeks records of donations related to Al-Qadir Trust

Arfa Feroz Zake
Asif Bashir Chaudhary
Haider Sherazi

PTI Chairman Imran Khan seen inside an ATC at Islamabad Judicial Complex on May 23, 2023. — Twitter/@PTIofficial
PTI Chairman Imran Khan seen inside an ATC at Islamabad Judicial Complex on May 23, 2023. — Twitter/@PTIofficial

  • ATC approves Khan's bail in eight cases till June 8.
  • Bushra Bibi secures bail in £190 million settlement case.
  • Imran Khan undergoes questioning by NAB team. 

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday sought the records of the funds related to the £190m settlement case, from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, who remains entangled in several legal cases.

The former prime minister appeared before the anti-graft watchdog's office in Rawalpindi, as per the commitment he made in response to the NAB summons and underwent questioning.

During the investigation, NAB officials grilled Khan over the records of correspondence with the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom and freezing orders from Khan regarding the £190 million, sources said.

Imran Khan — who is facing a number of cases — had come with a legal team comprising Salman Safdar, Khawaja Haris, Intezar Panjotha, and others at the NAB office. Meanwhile, the PTI chief's wife, Bushra Bibi who was accompanying him stayed in the car outside the office. 

As per the sources, the former prime minister told the NAB officials that the watchdog had already received the "Al-Qadir Trust's records". He said that the record of orders related to the £190 million was with the cabinet division, and he did not have access to NCA's records.

Sources said that the team has asked the PTI chief to submit the records of all donors of the university as well as the donations he has made himself.

The NAB team, as per the sources, has also sought a record of the university's affiliation with Punjab Higher Education and the trust deed between the trust and company of all the accused.

However, Khan remained stuck at the NAB premises for several hours as his car broke down and needed to be fixed. He finally left for Lahore as evening dawned in Babar Awan's car.

'No personal benefit from Al-Qadir Trust'

In his written response to the NAB, Khan said the £190 million received from the NCA was present in the Supreme Court's account. "No personal benefit of any kind was taken from this amount.

"Allegations of corruption by NAB are fabricated, baseless and malicious," the former premier stated. He also denied that he or his wife had benefitted monetarily as Al-Qadir trustees.

The federal cabinet had unanimously taken a decision regarding the amount in accordance with the law, Khan said.

The PTI chairman further informed the anti-graft watchdog that a copy of its inquiry report had been lost during his arrest at the Islamabad High Court earlier this month and requested that another copy be sent to his Zaman Park residence.

He also denied NAB's statement that he had not provided the required documents, saying that they were given to the body after the summons was received.

"The reply as well as my readiness and willingness to join the investigation of the case on 23.05.2023 is without prejudice to my clear and unambiguous stand that NAB has no jurisdiction to initiate any investigation or inquiry into this matter," the response concluded.

Imran Khan, Bushra Bibi secure bail in separate cases

Before visiting the NAB's office, the couple had gone to the Islamabad judicial complex, where an anti-terrorism court (ATC) granted bail to the PTI chief in eight different cases till June 8.

While Bushra Bibi, secured bail in the £190 million settlement case from an accountability court, which is housed in the same judicial complex. The former first lady along with Khan, had first appeared before the accountability court to seek a protective bail to avoid her arrest in the £190 million graft case.

The Lahore High Court had granted her protective bail which expired today (May 23). 

Today, Judge Muhammad Bashir approved Bushra Bibi's bail till May 31 against surety bonds worth Rs500,000. He also took her signatures to ensure the submission of surety bonds, before issuing a notice to the investigation officer (IO).

PTI leaders being forced to leave party: Imran Khan

During the court appearance, Khan claimed that the PTI party members were not leaving willingly but being forced to leave.

Khan’s comment was in response to question regarding reports that PTI leaders Musarrat Cheema and Jamshed Cheema were jumping ship.

The PTI chief also lamented the arrest of female party members during his chat with journalists while he was present inside the ATC at the judicial complex in Islamabad.

It may be noted that the former prime minister, who had been ousted via a vote of no-confidence last year in April, has expressed the possibility of his re-arrest today.

NAB summons

The anti-graft watchdog had summoned Khan in connection with an extensive investigation concerning a substantial £190 million settlement from the United Kingdom.

In response to the NAB summons, Imran Khan submitted a written reply to the anti-graft watchdog, expressing his willingness to comply. He affirmed his availability in the capital city of Islamabad on May 23, expressing his intent to pursue several pre-arrest bails and confirming that he "shall be free from the courts to join the investigation by 11am."

Notably, Khan also sought the inquiry report that the NAB had delivered to him after his arrest. According to the former prime minister, he had left the report at the Police Lines rest house during his confinement there.

On May 18, the PTI chief failed to make an appearance at the NAB office in Rawalpindi for the same case. In a comprehensive five-page written response, Khan informed the body that he was in Lahore, engaged in seeking bail in multiple cases, which constrained his availability to join the ongoing investigation.

Khan's arrest from the premises of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on May 9 in the same case sparked violent protests across the country. The violence resulted in the loss of at least eight lives and left numerous others injured. Authorities responded swiftly, apprehending thousands of PTI workers in an effort to restore order.

The chaos was not contained to the streets alone, as civil and military installations also faced attacks. Notably, the General Headquarters (GHQ) and Corps Commander House (Jinnah House) in Lahore suffered the brunt of violence that followed Khan's arrest.

However, the Supreme Court ordered his release on May 11 and directed him to appear before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) the next day.

Both the military and the government have pledged to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks on army installations under the Pakistan Army Act, Official Secrets Act, and other laws.

The £190 million settlement case

The PTI chairman is facing charges of corruption of billions of rupees in the case involving a property tycoon.

Khan — along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders — is facing a NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and the property tycoon, which reportedly caused a loss of £190 million to the national exchequer.

As per the charges, Khan and other accused allegedly adjusted Rs50 billion — £190 million at the time — sent by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to the Pakistani government as part of the agreement with the property tycoon.

They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 kanals of land at Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, to establish Al Qadir University.

During the PTI government, United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) seized assets worth 190 million pounds from the property tycoon in Britain.

The agency said the assets would be passed to the government of Pakistan and the settlement with the Pakistani property tycoon was “a civil matter, and does not represent a finding of guilt”.

Subsequently, then-prime minister Khan got approval of the settlement with the UK crime agency from his cabinet on December 3, 2019, without disclosing the details of the confidential agreement.

It was decided that the money would be submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of the tycoon.

Subsequently, the Al-Qadir Trust was established in Islamabad a few weeks after the PTI-led government approved the agreement with the property tycoon.

PTI leaders Zulfi Bukhari, Babar Awan, Bushra Bibi, and her close friend Farah Khan were appointed as members of the trust.

Two to three months after the cabinet’s approval, the property tycoon transferred 458 canals of land to Bukhari, a close aide of the PTI chief, which he later transferred to the trust.

Later, Bukhari and Awan opted out as the trustees. That trust is now registered in the name of Khan, Bushra Bibi and Farah.

NAB officials were earlier probing the alleged misuse of powers in the process of recovery of “dirty money” received from the UK crime agency.

Following the emergence of "irrefutable evidence" in the case, the inquiry was converted into an investigation.

According to the NAB officials, Khan and his wife obtained land worth billions of rupees from the property tycoon, to build an educational institute, in return for striking a deal to give legal cover to the property tycoon’s black money received from the UK crime agency.