The Serious Fraud Office has suddenly ended its 15-year criminal investigation into a Brummie businessman who fled to Pakistan after being implicated in a Â£ 49million mortgage fraud.
The arrest and duress orders against Nisar Afzal, who has always fervently denied wrongdoing, were overturned at the request of investigators.
The dramatic decision comes 15 years after Mr Afzal fled to Pakistan when allegations of fraud surfaced in 2006, saying he would not get a fair trial and that he and his family were “victims of a large-scale plot “.
He has since been prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office, aided by the National Crime Agency and Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau, over claiming to have control of Â£ 26million linked to the fraud.
Gold jewelry he owned, estimated to be worth Â£ 500,000, and two properties worth Â£ 1.2million in Birmingham were seized in connection with the investigation.
Read more: Gold and Rolex watches worth Â£ 500,000 found in safe linked to city fugitive
The decision to cancel the orders means that Nisar Afzal is no longer prosecuted for the allegations and his name is in the clear.
While in exile, Afzal’s brother Saghir Ahmed Afzal was jailed after acknowledging his role in the Â£ 49million fraud.
Nisar Afzal was named in court proceedings as a co-fraud in his absence, despite his protests of innocence.
Judge Beddoe, who convicted Saghir Afzal in June 2011, said he had orchestrated “with his brother” a “massive and carefully orchestrated trust trick” over a period of two years, defrauding the Cheshire Building Society, the Bank of Ireland, SociÃ©tÃ© GÃ©nÃ©rale and Nationwide. Building Society on nearly Â£ 50million.
The hearing, at Southwark Crown Court, learned that the fraud revolved around rogue licensed surveyor Ian McGarry providing Saghir and, allegedly, Nisar Afzal, with bogus valuations based on fictitious leases, which were used to support claims. fraudulent mortgage applications on six properties in Aston, Saltley and Oldbury.
A stable and an abandoned air base were among the affected properties.
These bogus appraisals were then used by Saghir Afzal and, according to his brother, to trick lenders into handing them nearly Â£ 50million on properties that were only worth Â£ 5.6million.
It turned out that Saghir Afzal personally profited from the fraud. It has also been claimed that he returned more than Â£ 26million to Pakistan, under his brother’s control.
The sentencing court also heard that McGarry had accepted bribes from the Afzal brothers totaling over Â£ 1million, including a lavish overseas vacation in Dubai, an Aston Martin car, money in brown paper envelopes and the purchase of three properties in London.
Throughout the 15 years he has spent on the run, Nisar Afzal has consistently challenged the criminal investigations directed against him and stressed that he had been the victim of abuse of power and had committed no fraud or criminal act.
He said the SFO failed to properly investigate another individual and always claimed his innocence.
Learn more about the case and the SFO prosecution of Nisar Afzal:
Birmingham fugitive linked to Â£ 30million fraud ‘living in luxury in Pakistan’
Birmingham scammer jailed for Britain’s biggest mortgage fraud sentenced to 10 more years
The case was considered one of the largest and most complex ever investigated by the SFO, and involved international cooperation with Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The fraud allegedly took place between 2004 and 2006 and the offenses included two counts of conspiring to obtain money transfers by deception and four counts of obtaining a transfer of money by deception.
Saghir Afzal was jailed for 13 years and ordered to pay back Â£ 29.3million.
McGarry was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to return Â£ 1.5million.
Six lawyers who allegedly carried out the real estate transactions on their behalf were also tried, but three were acquitted and the jury could not rule on the other three.
The SFO then carried out a civil investigation into the recovery of the proceeds of crime from Saghir and also against his brother Nisar, both from Edgbaston, on the grounds that the assets came from criminal enterprises.
Using new powers, called Inventory Property Orders, they seized family jewels from a safe, belonging to Shabana Kausa, Nisar’s former partner.
In 2013, Saghir Afzal was sentenced to an additional 10 years in prison after failing to obey the original court order asking him to return millions of pounds in cash and assets.
The SFO has now confirmed that the restraining orders against Nasir Afzal, first obtained on July 24, 2006, have been rescinded and that “there are no further charges by the SFO” against him.
Journalist Murtaza Ali Shah, who has followed the case throughout, reported in Geo News last week that the arrest warrant, obtained by Westminster Magistrates’ Court against Nasir Afzal on October 29 2010, was withdrawn under the Criminal Justice Act 1987.
Southwark Crown Court ordered the release of restraining orders and the lifting of the arrest warrant earlier this month after the Serious Fraud Office filed a court application with Judge Grieve QC, explaining that he would not prosecute the criminal case against Nisar Afzal and planned to close the case, Geo News reported.
The SFO has since confirmed to Birmingham Live that it has closed the case against Mr Afzal “after careful consideration”.
He concluded that the case no longer meets the test as set out in the Crown Attorneys Code, meaning that either there must be sufficient evidence to convict or it is in the public interest to prosecute.
However, assets seized from Nisar Afzal as a result of the investigation will not be returned, they said.
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