HC Deb 20 November 2000 vol 357 cc88-9W
Fiona Mactaggart

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what help he has offered to the authorities in Pakistan who are seeking to recover funds expropriated from that country illegally. [138520]

Mr. Charles Clarke

Over the past four years, the Home Office has received only two formal requests for assistance in connection with funds appropriated illegally from Pakistan. However, these were requests for evidence relating to the misappropriation of funds, not requests for confiscation of assets.

The first request, issued in October 1997, asked for evidence relating to Senator Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, in connection with allegations of drug trafficking. A large amount of evidence was gathered, but its transmission to Pakistan was hindered by legal challenges both before and after the coup of 12 October 1999. The Secretary of State has taken a decision to transmit the evidence, but this is still subject to an appeal against a decision of the court that leave to apply for a judicial review should not be granted.

The second request, issued in August 1999, concerned a fraud allegedly perpetrated by members of a former government. This request was subsequently withdrawn following the death of one of the principals.

Home Office officials have had several meetings with officials from Pakistan to advise them on how to seek recovery of funds alleged to be in the United Kingdom. On 18 February 2000, the then head of the Judicial Co-operation Unit (JCU) met General Amjad, head of the National Accountability Bureau, and provided detailed advice on the assistance that the United Kingdom could offer, following this up with copies of published information. On 6 March 2000, another official from the JCU met with officials from the National Accountability Bureau and the High Commission to review the assistance that could be offered, and to take note of some of the points they wished to raise in the Zardari case.

On 22 September 2000, members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development (DflD), and the Home Office met with General Amjad and other officials from the authorities in Pakistan to explore the scope of the assistance available to Pakistan from the United Kingdom.

On 13 November 2000, the Head of the United Kingdom Central Authority, the section within the Home Office that deals with letters of request from overseas, travelled to Pakistan for a five-day visit sponsored by the DflD to meet prosecutors, judges and officials of the National Accountability Bureau and provide advice on the assistance the United Kingdom can offer and on our requirements in terms of letters of request.