The arrest and imprisonment of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, sparked unrest – not only in Islamabad but also on the streets of London. The turmoil in Pakistan has raised concern over the movement of money between Islamabad and London, as well as the UK’s seemingly worldwide reputation as a haven for political elites and their wealth. Two luxurious properties located near Hyde Park have proved a focal point of the issue.
Khan’s bitter rival, Nawaz Sharif, allegedly resides with his family at Avenfield House, a property just off London’s exclusive Park Lane. After Khan’s arrest, the Metropolitan police were forced to impose a dispersal order to temporarily ban gatherings in order to deal with the disruption caused by protesters at the property. Mr Sharif has previously been prime minister of Pakistan and his brother is the country’s current leader, Shehbaz Sharif.
The Sharif family has been accused of buying the apartments using money stolen from the people of Pakistan, but the allegations are denied. After leaving Pakistan in 2019 on medical grounds, Nawaz Sharif subsequently regained prominence in Pakistan’s politics from his base in the UK.
The second property is a mansion on Hyde Park Place, which was handed over to UK authorities by Pakistani property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain. Mr Hussain’s company is Bahria Town, which describes itself as “Asia’s largest private property developer” that has “maintained the title through continuously introducing new dimensions to real estate & luxury living in Pakistan”. It has close links to the Pakistani military and was involved in controversial land transfers. This property became part of a settlement between Mr Hussain and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been the focus of attention more recently, anti-corruption campaigners and Transparency International UK have questioned the UK’s approach to investigating unexplained wealth held by political elites in London.
The UK’s property market is perceived as a haven for such individuals, and there are calls for law enforcement bodies to investigate unexplained wealth more thoroughly. The situation also raises questions about the UK’s immigration system and its treatment of corrupt politicians seeking refuge.
Rishi Sunak has said that the problem in Pakistan is an internal matter for the country. However, activists argue that the UK must address its role as a potential safe deposit box for ill-gotten wealth worldwide.