UK asks Pakistan to share evidence of extortion against MQM

LONDON: Newly revealed Scotland Yard documents list over 70 past and present Muttahida Qaumi Movement-related bank accounts in London with 26 in the name of party chief Altaf Hussain and 38 in the name of Tariq Mir, the party’s former finance chief. There are another 12 accounts in the name of the MQM (UK).

The Scotland Yard documents also suggest that the party used cash to buy a number of properties in the UK and give details of financial transactions with a company of which Mr Hussain is a director.

The British police have been investigating the MQM for several years but the pace of their investigations has markedly picked up since a meeting in London in April between Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and British Home Secretary Theresa May.

The Scotland Yard documents, which include details of both open and closed bank accounts, giving the account holders’ names, the account numbers and sort codes, were submitted to the Federal Investigations Agency (FIA) as part of a British request for assistance.

It is not clear how many of the accounts are now closed.

The MQM has dismissed Scotland Yard’s claims about the bank accounts as “unfounded and baseless”.

A six-member team of British detectives recently visited Pakistan seeking cooperation in a money laundering case.

The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is currently considering whether main MQM leaders should be charged with money laundering but the police say they are still making further inquiries. “The investigation continues and any further relevant information would be discussed with the CPS,” said a spokesperson for Scotland Yard.

The Scotland Yard documents include a number of other British requests for assistance from their Pakistani counterparts.

The British asked for information about cash and weapons found at the MQM’s Karachi headquarters during a Rangers’ raid on March 11, 2015.

The documents also asked for evidence of the MQM’s alleged involvement in extortion offences. “Several media reports state that MQM is engaged in extortion from the people and businesses in Karachi. It is believed that money is demanded in the form of ‘chits’ that are delivered to each business. If the money is not paid it is believed that the businessmen and their property are subject to violence. Any evidence of this would assist in identifying potential sources of income for MQM.”

Also, Scotland Yard asked in particular for details of the 2012 Baldia factory fire case and the report of a joint investigation team into the incident.

The Scotland Yard documents suggest that if there is to be a money laundering trial in the UK it would centre on whether any money received from a foreign government was not declared to the Election Commission of Pakistan thus possibly breaching the Political Parties Order, 2002.

The Scotland Yard documents cited the relevant legislation in Pakistan as saying: “Any contribution made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign government, multinational or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association shall be prohibited…”

If there were legal problems with a failure to declare certain funds or their source then that money might be considered ‘criminal proceeds’ and be subjected to British money laundering legislation.

‘All allegations false’

The MQM has denied receiving funds from Indian intelligence agency RAW and insisted that all the allegations made against it are false.

The Scotland Yard documents ask: “Please may enquires be made in Pakistan to obtain copies of the ‘statement of accounts’ submitted by MQM since 2002.”

One of the documents goes on: “A digital copy of the internal accounting records would be preferable. Details of donations and who they were received from and all other sources of income including the collection of animal hides covering from the year 2000 to the current date would assist.”

The Scotland Yard documents show funds being transferred into a company called Euro Property Developments Ltd. The company received £750,000 between October 2012 and May 2013.

The document says: “Altaf Hussain [leader of MQM] and Mohammad Anwar [member of MQM Central Co-ordination committee] are the directors of Euro Property Developments Ltd. and Tariq Mir [head of MQM finances] is the secretary of the company.”

Asked about these transactions, the MQM denied these were its funds.

During their investigations into the 2010 murder of senior MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq, the police found £167,525.92 in the MQM’s offices in London and a further £289,785.32 in Mr Hussain’s home in Edgware, North London.

They also found a list in Mr Hussain’s home itemising weapons, including mortars, grenades and bomb-making equipment. The list included prices for the weapons.

The six-strong British police team in Pakistan was also seeking to advance its investigation into the Dr Farooq murder. Three suspects in the murder case are currently being held in Pakistan.

The UK police want one of the three – Mohsin Ali Syed – extradited who they believe was present at the scene of the killing. Pakistan, however, is insisting that either all three should be extradited — or none at all.

The British judiciary has been highly critical of the MQM. Back in 2011 a British judge adjudicating an asylum appeal case found that “the MQM has killed over 200 police officers who have stood up against them in Karachi”.

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