- NAB says it has taken court orders to seize possession of land measuring 1,125 acres of Nisar Afzal.
- NAB alleges businessman has committed a £50 million mortgage fraud in the United Kingdom.
- NAB takes action after UK’s SFO drops its investigation and arrest warrant against Afzal.
LONDON: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last week announced it has taken court orders to seize possession of land measuring 1,125 acres of British Pakistani businessman Nisar Afzal — alleging that he has committed a £50 million mortgage fraud in the United Kingdom but the NAB authorities have taken action after the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) dropped its investigation and the arrest warrant against Afzal.
The News has seen correspondence of UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) with the NAB in relation to the same case which explains why NAB has taken seizure orders for assets of Afzal when the requesting agencies (UK’s SFO and NCA) decided to drop the case after nearly 15 years of investigation — after failing to find any evidence that Afzal shifted £25 million corrupt money from the UK to Pakistan.
The NAB has taken the court orders for possession of assets of Nisar Afzal because the NCA had offered to NAB that it could keep 50% of the assets recovered if NAB succeeded in finding assets of Afzal in Pakistan, according to evidence.
The NCA had originally alleged that Afzal had taken £25 million to Pakistan from the UK before 2006 and argued the same before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court when getting arrest warrants for him but a source in NAB confirmed that from 2011 to 2017 the NCA didn’t hand over any proof to Pakistani authorities that any monies had been laundered to Pakistan illegally or through any means of transfer from the UK, as alleged by the Serious Fraud Office.
Instead, the NCA offered to NAB that it should seize assets of Afzal, who left for Pakistan in 2006 from the UK and use half of the proceeds of the seized assets to build an anti-corruption centre in Islamabad which could be a landmark demonstrating the joint efforts of NAB and NCA against corruption.
The News has seen a copy of the two-page letter that was written by NCA to Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, NAB’s Chairman on 7 August 2017, and sent by the British High Commission Islamabad titled “Request for assistance — NCA and SFO”. This scribe has also seen a letter from the SFO to NCA’s Pakistan Country Manager on 24 July 2017.
The NCA’s August 2017 letter reminded the NAB Chairman that in March of 2017, NAB Deputy Chairman led a delegation to meet a number of key UK agencies involved in the fight against corruption, white-collar crime and high-end money laundering.
The letter said that one such agency which met the NAB delegation was the SFO which held “detailed strategic discussions” with the NAB and the Bureau’s delegation was given a “presentation by investigators on a £60 million UK mortgage fraud” and how successful prosecutions have taken place in the UK.
“One of the subjects of the investigation fled to Pakistan before being arrested,” the NCA letter said in reference to Nisar Afzal and added: “It is believed he brought in excess of £25 million of the stolen assets with him. There are extant arrest warrants in the UK.” The NCA then went on to make the extraordinary offer to the NAB, showing its determination to get to Afzal at any cost, including offering an equal share in the recovered assets.
The NCA told NAB it requests assistance with recovering criminal assets held legally in Pakistan. “The UK accepts there is a cost to recording assets held in complex financial structures there, the SFO is agreeable to the Pakistan authorities retaining 50% of the seized assets recovered to cover costs. Of course, should the Pakistan authorities retain such monies evidence of the recovery and provenance of the assets seized just be presented to the SFO.”
The NCA letter said that seizing the assets of Afzal would build an exemplary relationship between the two countries. “This represents an excellent opportunity to grow the NCA/NAB relationship and a demonstration of our strategic partnership.”
The News reported in November 2021 that Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has dropped a high-profile criminal fraud investigation about Nisar Ahmed Afzal after investigating an alleged mortgage fraud case of £50 million spanning more than 15 years of investigation in both the UK and Pakistan.
Authorities at the Serious Fraud Office had confirmed that criminal proceedings against Nisar Ahmed Afzal from Birmingham have been closed, freezing orders have been released and he is no longer subject to an arrest warrant.
The Birmingham Mortgage Fraud case was seen as one of the biggest and most complex cases investigated by the SFO with help from the NCA and cooperation from NAB. In May 2019, a senior investigator of the NCA visited NAB’s Rawalpindi office to obtain evidence that could corroborate “the banking transaction data already obtained in the UK” but no evidence was found establishing transfer of money from the UK to Pakistan.
The NCA and SFO didn’t respond to questions about offering a 50% deal to NAB. Afzal’s lawyer said until today no evidence has been produced showing the corruption of a rupee by him. He said the NAB was aware that there was no case against Nisar Afzal in the UK anymore but some people within the NAB have seized assets of his client over the lucrative offer NCA had made to NAB.
The lawyer said: “We will go to court against this arbitrary action. Our client will be vindicated, like before. This is not the first time that NAB has done so.” The NCA and SFO didn’t respond to questions about the letters sent to NAB authorities.
Originally published in