Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Placed Under Travel Ban in Graft Case

Pakistan's government has recently imposed a travel ban on former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi as part of ongoing graft investigations by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The couple has been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), which is Pakistan’s  border control system.

Imran Khan WEFPakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan. (Photo: Jolanda Flubacher/World Economic Forum, Flickr, License)The government alleges that Khan and Bibi accepted land worth millions of dollars as a bribe from property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain for the construction of a university and the Al-Qadir trust.

In 2019, the U.K.'s National Crime Agency (NCA) reached a settlement of 190 million pounds (US$112.6 million) with Hussain following a probe into "dirty money" involving bribery and corruption.

Hussain, 69, amassed his fortune through real estate ventures in Asia and is the owner of the Bahria Town gated flagship real estate empire.

Khan was arrested in the same graft case on May 9, which led to violent clashes between his supporters and security forces, with attacks on military installations.

On Wednesday, Khan's bail in this case was extended until June 19 by the court.

"I want to thank the government for putting my name on the ECL as I have no plans to travel abroad because I neither have any properties or businesses abroad nor even a bank account outside the country. If and when I do get an opportunity for a holiday, it will be in our northern mountains, my favorite place on earth," Khan tweeted about his travel ban.

The two are the sole trustees of the trust and deny any wrongdoing. Khan's spokesperson, Farrukh Habib, stated that the case is politically motivated.

The current government claims that the scheme was initiated with 190 million pounds ($237.7 million) repatriated to the Pakistani government in 2019 by U.K. authorities after Hussain surrendered money and assets to resolve a British investigation into his illicit funds.

Instead of depositing the money in the Pakistan treasury, legal experts believe that Khan used it to pay penalties and fines imposed by the court against Hussain for the unlawful acquisition of government lands in Karachi, the southern port city, at below-market prices for development.

"The case against Imran Khan is very strong, as the NCA stated at that time that 'the assets will be returned to the State of Pakistan.' However, Khan's cabinet returned that money, which belonged to the state of Pakistan, back to Hussain," said Osama Malik, a senior legal expert, speaking to OCCRP.

"Nevertheless, in this case, only Khan has been placed on the ECL while Hussain has neither been arrested nor included in the travel ban list," Malik added.