New UK property law could spell doom for Pak politicians

ANI | Updated: Feb 05, 2018 14:52 IST

London [UK], Feb 5 (ANI): The United Kingdom Government has introduced new rules which gives the law enforcement officers sweeping powers to usurp assets and properties that have been accrued through "dirty money."

The new rules have been designed to stop corrupt people from using the UK as a safe haven to amass unaccounted wealth. Individuals can be fined and jailed if they make misleading statements.

British authorities have the right to freeze and recover properties of more than 50,000 pounds if individuals cannot give a genuine explanation on the source of the property and legal proof showing that they have acquired the property legally, The Dawn reported.

The UWO (Unexplained Wealth Order) that initially came into force on February 1, looked to target Russian businessmen and industrialists having assets in the UK. However, the new property law could, however, spell the same trouble for some Pakistani politicians.

Another issue that goes against Pakistani politicians is "the lower threshold as a UWO made in relation to a non-EEA [European Economic Area] PEP [Politically Exposed Person] would not require suspicion of serious criminality".

London-based anti-corruption group, Transparency International (TI) said that it has identified properties worth 4.4 billion pounds in the UK that can be taken up in the new legislation.

It has already prepared a list of five cases and feels that the investigation would not be delayed for long. This also includes the Avenfield House flats case, involving former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Suspecting Sharif as the owner of four Avenfield House flats worth eight million pounds, TI said in a statement, "The Land Registry documents showing the four properties are owned by two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands- Nescoll Limited and Nielsen Limited.

"According to information published as part of Panama Papers, these companies were controlled by the former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif. In 2017, Pakistani authorities initiated an investigation into these assets, which found that they were purchased without a mortgage between 1993 and 1995, just after Sharif reported a growth in wealth without any plausible declared source of income. In July 2017, Sharif was removed from the office after the investigation found that he had failed to disclose these properties on his official asset declaration," added TI.

Igor Shuvalov, the Russian first deputy prime minister is the alleged owner of two flats worth 11.44 million pounds at 4 Whitehall Court in London.

Sharif is not the only politician to have links to a series properties in the UK.

Other media reports have mentioned that various Pakistani politicians have also purchased properties and amassed unaccounted wealth in the UK.

India's most wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim has been reportedly linked to a series of properties across the United Kingdom, according to a UK media report.

The UK newspaper compared the details from documents prepared by Indian authorities related to the records held by UK's Companies House, Land Registry and the Panama Papers.

The documents also alleged that Ibrahim's right-hand man, Muhammed Iqbal "Mirchi" Memon, amassed huge properties in the UK, such as hotels, mansions, and houses in South-East England.

Memon held at least 11 company directorships in tiling, construction and lettings firms in the UK before he died in 2013 after suffering a heart attack. He had consistently denied his involvement in Ibrahim's cartel.

Memon, also a suspect in the 1993 Mumbai attacks, had sought refuge in London after the blasts and attempts to extradite him to India had failed. He sought refuge in London after the 1993 Mumbai attacks. India has tried to extradite him but in vain.

Ibrahim, who has an Interpol red notice against him, has been on the UK Treasury sanctions list for the last many years with three addresses registered in Pakistan.

According to the UK government's estimates, about 90 billion pounds in unaccounted wealth is laundered in the country every year. (ANI)

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