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Businessman’s frozen £190 million UK assets returned to Pakistan

Britain’s crime officials have returned £190 million to Pakistan following an investigation into a Pakistani businessman whose assets in the UK were the subject of freezing orders; millions of pounds more were similarly returned to other countries in 2019-20, officials said.

The amounts are the result of investigations into international corruption and bribery. More individuals were charged by the National Crime Agency (NCA)’s international corruption unit than ever before during the year, linked to the laundering of criminal cash into major overseas developments projects.

An NCA spokesperson said none of the cases investigated during 2019-20 involved Indian citizens.

Its international corruption unit restrained or detained £32 million; £146 million more were been confiscated or forfeited, of which £139 million were returned to developing countries, the NCA said in its annual report.

“In December 2019, the NCA agreed a civil settlement of £190 million following a civil investigation into a Pakistani national, whose business is one of largest private sector employers in Pakistan. Most of the frozen funds in this case have now been returned to Pakistan”, it said.

The NCA had previously identified the businessman as Malik Riaz Hussain. The settlement was announced after NCA implemented eight account freezing orders in August 2019 linked to nearly £120 million and one in December 2018 linked to the same investigation for £20 million.

Account freezing orders and unexplained wealth orders were unveiled by British authorities in 2018 as part of efforts to tackle fraud and organised crime, or assist in the recovery of illegitimate assets. Some non-EU politicians have been subject to such orders.

The International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre (IACCC) based at the NCA supported foreign jurisdictions investigating “grand corruption” during the year. This is defined as abuse of high level power causing serious and widespread harm to society.

This year IACCC intelligence supported the arrest of senior corrupt officials, the identification of over £100 million worth of suspicious assets, and the return of stolen money to affected states, the NCA said.

NCA director-general Lynne Owens said: “The threat to the UK from serious and organised crime remains chronic and corrosive. Criminals work across international boundaries and are using new technologies to find different ways to identify victims, exploit the vulnerable and hide both their identities and the proceeds of their crime”.

“The NCA leads the UK’s fight against these criminals, and in 2019/20 we recorded our biggest ever disruptive impact against them”.

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