The decision of the Home Office to cancel the 10-year multiple-entry visit visas of Malik Riaz and his son, Ahmed Ali Riaz, on the basis that their “exclusion from the UK is conducive to the public good” has been upheld by a UK court of appeal.
The Home Office decision to cancel the visas of the Bahria Town founder and his son was made after the top immigration body took into consideration the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) investigation and settlement of £190 million with Riaz in 2019; Supreme Court judgments regarding Bahria Town previously in May 2018 and March 2019; a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report probing money deposited by Bahria Town into fake accounts and a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference filed in April 2019 linking Bahria Town to an investigation into Karachi Land Developments.
The UK court judgment while rejecting the appeal said that the conclusion of the Home Office that Riaz and his son have been involved in corruption and financial/commercial misconduct was founded on their involvement in the affairs of Bahria Town which is a company owned and run by the appellants’ family and described as the largest property developer in Asia.
Both the court and Home Office heavily based their decisions on SC judgments and orders, NAB inquiries and the JIT report connected to Bahria Town.
Riaz and his son had held 10-year visit visas to the UK which were valid till July 28, 2021 and May 18, 2021, respectively. The Home Office, however, canceled the visas on December 10, 2019, a week following the NCA’s announcement regarding its probe and settlement with the Bahria Town founder.
In a bid to resolve the dispute before court proceedings are initiated, Riaz’s lawyers filed a pre-action protocol (PAP) letter to the Home Office, which made a fresh cancellation decision against their visas on January 31, 2020.
Consequently, the lawyers filed a judicial review application to the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). The tribunal on November 17, 2020, dismissed Riaz’s claim for a judicial review and found no wrongdoing in how the Home Office had reached its decision regarding the visa cancellation.
Riaz and his son then filed an appeal on seven grounds in the Royal Courts of Justice that upheld the tribunal’s decision pertaining to the judicial review.
A detailed judgment highlighting the grounds of appeal, the evidence considered by the Home Office, and the decision taken to cancel the visas were published by the court on November 26.
The judgment contains the letters written by the Home Office to Riaz and his son informing them of the decision to cancel their visas.
One of the letters states “…whilst there has not been a criminal conviction against you I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you have been involved with corruption and financial/commercial misconduct. As a result, having regard to the UKs commitment to combat corruption and financial crime, I believe that your exclusion from the UK is conducive to the public good due to your conduct, character, and associations.”
The judgment further notes that the conclusion of the Home Office about Riaz and his son being involved with corruption and financial/commercial misconduct was founded on their involvement in the affairs of Bahria Town.
As per the Home Office, an exclusion decision is a personal decision of the Secretary of State, on the basis that it is conducive to the public good. This means that it is undesirable to admit the person to the UK because they pose a threat to UK society.
The appellants’ visas were canceled under V 9.1 and V 9.6 of Appendix V of the Immigration Rules read with paragraphs V 3.3. The Home Office rules note that a person does not need to have been convicted of a criminal offense for this provision to apply.
In response to their PAP letters, the Home Office wrote, “I have taken into account the fact that these were not criminal proceedings and that the Supreme Court of Pakistan stopped short of making a finding of bribery. However, I consider that the majority judgments of the Court provide strong support for the conclusion that Bahria Town, you and/or your associates benefited financially from the proceeds of illegitimate activities. By way of example, the court judgment features the following quote ‘Grant of land to MDA for an incremental housing scheme proved to be a gimmick to accomplish the agenda of Malik Riaz aiming at his personal enrichment at the cost of the state and the people. It is, thus, a brazen betrayal of the trust of the state and the people and a blatant fraud on the statute’ (Paragraph 12) which strongly supports this conclusion.”