WORLD EXCLUSIVE: NCA freezing orders on 100million bank accounts held by members of Pakistani elite
FROZEN: Bank accounts of husband and wife Ahmed Ali Riaz (right) and Mubashra Ali Malik (left) were frozen after an NCA application (YouTube)
NATIONAL Crime Agency (NCA) investigators have been granted freezing orders on eight bank accounts containing a total of more than £100 million that are linked to members of the Pakistani elite, we can exclusively reveal. Essex News and Investigations can reveal the details of the four people and four separate businesses whose bank accounts have been frozen in what the NCA said was the largest amount of money it has ever frozen in connection with one investigation. The accounts have been frozen for 12 months while the NCA, often referred to as Britain's FBI, investigates "suspected bribery and corruption in an overseas country."
INVESTIGATION: Hasan Nawaz Sharif had a charge against the Hyde Park Place property in 2016 (YouTube)
The fact that the accounts have been frozen does not indicate that any wrongdoing has taken place, but it allows the NCA time to investigate the allegations. Account freezing orders were introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017. They can be applied for when an enforcement officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that money held in an account with a bank or building society is recoverable property under the Proceeds of Crime Act, or is intended for use in unlawful conduct. They can also be challenged in court by the owner of the account in question. All of the frozen bank accounts in question are with the Emirates NBD Bank PJSC, owned by the Dubai Government, which is one of the largest banking groups in the Middle East. One of the frozen accounts in question belongs to British Virgin Islands company Ultimate Holdings MGT Limited, which was linked to Hasan Nawaz Sharif, a son of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, 69, who held office until July 2017, when he was removed from office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan following revelations from the Panama Papers leaks about offshore companies that revealed details of some properties owned in London.
ASSETS: The property in Hyde Park Place bought for £42.5 million (Google)
These included a multi-million pound property in Hyde Park Place, Hyde Park, central London, still registered as being owned by Ultimate Holdings MGT Limited.
Land Registry records say the company paid £42.5 million for it in 2016 when Hasan Nawaz Sharif had a charge in his name against the property and was listed on the title deed as the lender. Since 2017, the lender is now listed as the bank Emirates NBD PJSC, which now, instead, has a charge on the property. Another frozen account is jointly held by socialites Bina Riaz, 64, and Sana Salman who are wife and daughter respectively of Malik Riaz Hussain, 65, one of Pakistan's richest business tycoons who founded Bahria Town, the largest privately held real estate development company in Asia.
WEALTH: Ahmed Ali Riaz in a still from a video where he showed off his super cars (YouTube)
Two of the accounts are in the name of Ahmed Ali Riaz (Malik), 41, a son of Malik Riaz Hussain. His website described him as "chief executive officer of the famous Bahria town" and a "billionaire, young entrepreneur philanthropist." His wife Mubashra Ali Malik also has an account frozen. According to Westminster Magistrates Court listings, the couple share a villa in the Emirate Hills area of Dubai, a luxury gated community, said to contain some of the most expensive real estate in Dubai.
PHILANTHROPIST: Business tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain's Twitter page (Malik Riaz Hussain/Twitter)
Bina Riaz and Sana Salman are listed as residing at a separate villa in the same area. The NCA did not name any of the parties in a press release about the freezing order application, which was heard in private with no prior notice given to any of those involved. However, the names were published on daily listings for the court provided by the court service to the media. An NCA spokesman said: "The Account Freezing Orders (AFOs) were obtained at Westminster Magistrates Court on August 12, and represent the largest amount of money frozen using AFOs since they were introduced under the Criminal Finances Act 2017. "The orders will allow the NCA to further investigate the funds. If found to be derived from - or intended for use in - unlawful conduct, the NCA will seek to recover the money.
LUXURY: Villas like these in the Emirates Hills are some of the most expensive in Dubai (Luxhabitat.ae)
"Approximately £20 million held by an unnamed linked individual was frozen following a hearing in December 2018.
The NCA’s Ben Russell, Deputy Director of the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), said: “The NECC leads UK law enforcement efforts to tackle illicit finance, bringing the capabilities of multiple agencies together against the threat. “In the last year, the NCA has used new powers such as Unexplained Wealth Orders and Account Freezing Orders to target suspected illicit assets, and we are already seeing some far reaching impact of this activity.” Lawyers for the individuals and businesses involved claimed they should not be named and the release of the information by the court was a "breach of data protection." The court has not confirmed this to be the case and there were no reporting restrictions in place to prevent publication.