So, is London the last refuge for the Kleptocrats-Criminals?

The country that taught us lesson regarding Rule of Law, Rule of Politics is winning there!

On September 16, 2016, Dawn published the following Situationer, which explains how law may not win over politics in UK:

Politics, not law, likely to decide murder probe
By Owen Bennett-Jones

Here is the text of the piece:

LONDON: Shortly before 17:30 on Sept 16, 2010, Dr Imran Farooq was on his way home from work when he was murdered outside his home in Green Lane, Edgware, in north London. As the police subsequently reported, a post-mortem gave his cause of death as multiple stab wounds and blunt trauma to the head.

For Dr Farooq it was a violent, brutal end. For the MQM, it was the start of a process that six years later would leave the party divided, weakened and under assault from the Pakistani state. We can never know what would have happened had Imran Farooq not been murdered but MQM insiders admit that it was an incident that changed everything.
The British police investigation has been remarkably thorough. Detectives from the Counter Terrorism Command have spoken to 4,555 people, reviewed 7,697 documents, followed up 2,423 lines of inquiry and seized 4,325 exhibits.
At each stage the police faced obstacles. Early on, for example, details of visa applications had to be prised out of a reluctant British consulate in Karachi. Despite such difficulties the police eventually identified two suspects. One, Muhammad Kashif Khan Kamran subsequently died in Pakistani custody: the other, Mohsin Ali Syed is alive and the subject of a British extradition request.
After the murder inquiry came other investigations. The police found not only piles of cash in the MQM’s buildings but also a receipt for weapons and explosives in Altaf Hussain’s home. The tax authorities started taking an interest and the MQM leader’s suggestion that his supporters play football with the heads of Karachi police officers led to a hate speech investigation.
And yet there were no charges. The MQM insists this is because it is innocent. Others have different theories. Increasing numbers of British members of parliament are asking why the cases are deadlocked. Even some of those under investigation have fully expected to be charged. Their own lawyers told them charges were inevitable.
UK protecting MQM?
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that had the MQM been a jihadi outfit there would have been charges long ago. Which raises the question: why is the British state protecting the MQM?
The answer is complicated because the reasons have changed over time. When Altaf Hussain first arrived in London the British saw him as an asset. There were regular contacts — several each week — between the MQM leadership, the Foreign Office and MI6. With a consistent haul of between 20 and 25 Members of the National Assembly, the MQM often held the balance of power in Pakistan and from time to time had federal ministers. When Britain needed things done in Pakistan it was in the happy position of having a powerful Pakistani politician beholden to British hospitality.
At various times an array of Pakistani politicians — driven, let us not forget, by self-interest rather than principle — demanded London make legal moves against the party. People who had been directly threatened in Altaf Hussain’s speeches paid visits to the British High Commissioner in Islamabad demanding action. All were brushed aside with the standard response: “He is a British citizen: it is none of your business”.
After Imran Farooq’s murder the mood of the British Foreign Office gradually began to change. Diplomats who in the past had said: “we have no evidence against the MQM” started to say: “of course, they are rather unsavoury but it’s a matter for the police”.
The British ship of state, it seemed, was adjusting itself to the possibility that there would indeed be charges.
But then a new factor come into play: it became known that two senior MQM officials had given statements to the British police that some of their funding came from India. Paradoxically, the revelation helped the MQM because it raised the possibility that evidence of India’s funding of terrorists could be heard in a British court. Indian officials made it clear that this would be unacceptable. Given the high priority Britain has given to improving its trade relationship with India, Delhi’s concerns were taken seriously.
Having initially been motivated by a desire to protect its own interests, London found itself trying to protect India’s. Which is why just a month ago there was every chance that all the cases would have been dropped.
The Aug 22 speech
And then Altaf Hussain made his August speech. The British police had become so accustomed to their investigations into the MQM leading nowhere that their initial response was to shrug their shoulders and say it was a matter for Karachi law enforcement authorities. But the speech and the divisions it created within the MQM had created a new political situation and the next day – when Scotland Yard rather belatedly realised this – the British police set up a new incitement investigation.
The incitement could satisfy everyone. The British could help overcome their PR problem in Pakistan by at last being able to say: “we have moved against the party, just as many Pakistanis demanded”. While Islamabad’s would prefer money laundering charges so that the Indian funding evidence is heard in a British court, it would welcome charges of any kind. For its part, India has no reason to stand in the way of a British trial as long as it steers clear of the funding issues.
So six years after Imran Farooq was murdered, the MQM has been bashed and battered but it has still not been knocked out. The pressure that Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is applying on London is having an impact, especially in the Foreign Office, but there is still some way to go before London decisively changes it attitude. These cases have a tendency to drag on longer than anyone expects but it should be the case that by the seventh anniversary of Imran Farooq’s death we will finally know the legal fate of the MQM’s London leadership. And the history of the whole story suggests that the outcome will depend not so much on the law but on politics.
– – – – –
And now the The New York Times has this to say on the issue:

By BEN JUDAH

DEC, 29, 2016
LONDON — Six years ago, the government of Kurmanbek Bakiyev nearly killed me. I remember it well, because it killed a man standing near me. It wasn’t specifically me, or him, they were trying to kill. They were simply firing live rounds at protesters.
This was a forgotten massacre in an overlooked country. The killings took place in Bishkek, the rickety capital of the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, at the start of the 2010 revolution that overthrew Mr. Bakiyev’s autocratic rule.
His regime had been about one thing: personal plunder. But the Kyrgyz people’s patience had finally worn out. That April I was among the crowd near the presidential palace chanting “Stop corruption now” when the guards started shooting.
I ran for my life, but the Kyrgyz man nearby was not so lucky. I saw his bloodied, punctured body being dragged away by other protesters. As the regime teetered and fell, Mr. Bakiyev fled and found refuge in Belarus. Some days later I paid a visit to the Bishkek morgue to record how many people had been shot. I saw plenty. More than 40 protesters were killed.
This is why it angers me that today, the dictator’s son and confidant, Maxim Bakiyev, lives in a mansion purchased in 2010 for $4.3 million in a London suburb less than 20 miles from my own family home. Little did I know, when I flew back after the Bishkek massacre, that Mr. Bakiyev was also traveling to Britain.
Of course, it was no surprise, because London has become a personal valet to men like him: It’s a dictators’ safe space, where billions of dollars are laundered through the London real estate market every year, contributing to what the National Crime Agency estimates to be an annual total of more $125 billion laundered in Britain.
In Kyrgyzstan, Maxim Bakiyev was convicted in absentia, in a series of cases over 2013 and 2014, for attempted murder, embezzlement of millions in state funds, illegal privatization of public land and corruption in selling off state assets; he received sentences varying from 25 years to life. His lawyers say the charges were politically motivated, and Mr. Bakiyev has claimed political asylum in Britain. (When I contacted the Home Office to request an update on the status of this claim, I was told that government policy is not to comment on any individual case.) In London, he has enjoyed a life of genteel seclusion, with a library, a home cinema and a bar.
The Bakiyev regime was always seen as a family affair, a kleptocratic triumvirate of the son, his father and his uncle. For this reason, Maxim Bakiyev has remained one of the most loathed figures in his hard-done-by homeland.
When I learned that Mr. Bakiyev lived in London, I decided to research the ownership of the mansion he lives in. But this one simple thing is impossible to discover; the true owner, and the true origins of the money, are cloaked under an anonymous offshore company registered in Belize.
The watchdog group Global Witness is calling for an investigation into Mr. Bakiyev’s affairs. The Kyrgyz authorities, according to Global Witness, believe that this Belize-registered company is linked to an alleged money-laundering scheme used to funnel state funds out of Kyrgyzstan. Global Witness’s 2015 report on Maxim Bakiyev, “Blood Red Carpet,” criticizes British authorities, lawyers and real estate agents for failing “to prevent a man linked to corruption and violence from setting up home in a luxury suburb in London.”
But how would it be otherwise? British law is on the side of the kleptocrats. All an autocrat on the run has to do is create a shell company to hide his identity and the source of his illicit wealth, and then use this instrument to purchase property incognito. Britain’s best-paid brokers and lawyers are here to help — and will ask no awkward questions about the provenance of their clients’ cash.
Such anonymous companies now own nearly 40,000 London properties. Some of these purchases may be entirely legitimate and innocent, but these tools of secrecy are well known to be favored by money launderers: The anticorruption organization Transparency International has found that this technique has been used for three-quarters of properties whose owners have been investigated for corruption in Britain.
Just because there aren’t bodies on the streets of London doesn’t mean London isn’t abetting those who pile them up elsewhere. The British establishment has long feigned ignorance of the business, but the London Laundromat is destroying the country’s reputation. Across the former Soviet Union, Britain is now seen as a partner in corruption, not democracy, for elites seeking to asset-strip their own states. The elected president of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev, has repeatedly called — in vain — for Britain to stop sheltering “a guy who robbed us.”
Amid this shame and gloom, one ray of light has emerged: a serious chance of the reforms we need to stop human rights abusers from using London real estate to hide their wealth. In Parliament, a growing cross-party band of members is seeking to amend the Criminal Finances Bill, now making its way through the legislative process.
This amendment, named after the Russian lawyer and corruption whistle-blower Sergei L. Magnitsky, who died in prison in suspicious circumstances, would allow officials and organizations like Global Witness to apply for a court order to freeze the assets of human rights violators. When presented with evidence and a clear public-interest case, government ministers would be legally bound to act.
Whether this reform is adopted will tell us much about who Prime Minister Theresa May really is. If her government kills the amendment, it will show that she is content for Britain to remain a safe haven for dictators — while London’s bankers, lawyers and real estate brokers make commissions on their blood money. It’s time London rolled up the red carpet.
Ben Judah is the author, most recently, of “This Is London.”

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