ISLAMABAD - The National Accountability Bureau has been requested for timely intervention to protect interests of Pakistan, to pre-empt the forfeiture of “Park Lane properties” in favour of London, in case the UK would move ahead with the unexplained wealth order proceedings against these apartments.

The attention of the national accountability watchdog was drawn to “All Parties’ Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption’s decision to approach Serious Fraud Office (SFO), UK”, asking it to exercise power to seek an UWO against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, regarding the Park Lane properties.

The UK proceeds of “Crime Act, 2002” were amended recently to confer new anti-corruption powers on the SFO.

“Amendments empower the SFO to seek an ‘UWO’ from the English courts, requiring [in very broad terms] persons in positions of political influence [whether in England or elsewhere] to account for the source of funds by which they have acquired assets, if such assets do not appear to be explicable by reference to their legitimate earnings,” Barrister Farruk Karim Qureshi, mentioned in his letter, written to the NAB chief Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal last month.

“The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption wrote to the director of the SFO [David Green], inviting him to exercise his powers to seek a UWO against Mr Sharif in respect of the Park Lane properties,” according to copy of the letter available with The Nation.

“The SFO and NCA [National Crime Agency, UK), however, do not as a matter of policy comment on whether or not complaints against individuals will be investigated,” reads the letter, adding it was not possible under the UK's Freedom of Information law to compel the SFO to divulge any information with regards to Sharif's case.

“Attempts in the past to compel prosecuting authorities through legal proceedings to take action have not been successful,” said Qureshi in the letter, suggesting that irrespective of whether the SFO and NCA intend to take action, under the law of England and Wales, Pakistan should have civil remedies available regarding the Park Lane properties.

Citing an example of litigation in England in the past (proceedings taken by the Republic of Haiti against the Duvalier family in the English courts in the late I980s), he expressed fear that those properties could be shown to have been funded through corruption or misfeasance.

“In the event that the SFO and or NCA seek issuance of an UWO and the proceedings result in a successful prosecution,” he said, fearing that the proceeds of sale of the Park Lane properties would stand forfeited in favour of the state instead of being handed over to Pakistan.

Qureshi, in view of the circumstances, requested the NAB to take immediate steps to protect the interests of Pakistan and ensure timely institution of proceedings in London.

“In order to ensure that the control of Park Lane properties is taken over by a court of competent jurisdiction through attachment of the property and ultimately the proceeds of sale are placed at the disposal of Pakistan,” he opined, requesting the NAB to confirm within two weeks whether or not it intended to institute proceedings in London to protect the interest of Pakistan.

Qureshi also mentioned that he would approach the Supreme Court for issuance of appropriate directions, if the NAB failed to respond.

Several attempts were made to contact the NAB spokesman Nawazish Ali, but he neither picked the mobile phone nor reply to messages.

Susan Hawley, policy director, Corruption Watch, UK on 14th March 2017 had written to James Mitra of the International Corruption Unit, of the NCA, regarding the properties held by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the UK.

According to a copy of the letter available with The Nation, Hawley had raised concern about the properties held by Nawaz Sharif.