Pakistani shipping magnate in major UK insider trading case

LONDON: A multi-billionaire Pakistani national Alshair Fiyaz who purchased a yacht built for billionaire Roman Abramovich has been named in connection with allegations of market manipulation in a high-profile insider trading case at the Southwark Crown Court where the case has been brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), UK’s regulator of financial markets.Pakistani Alshair Fiyaz’s net worth is estimated to be at US$ 7 billion and he has businesses in shipping, real estate, leisure and gold mine. His family businesses spread to Pakistan, UK, European countries and Dubai. He purchased the yacht Ecstasea which was built for Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for USD 75 million and has been using the yacht to host celebrities and friends for lavish parties.

During hearing at the Southwark Crown Court, the FCA prosecutor cross-examined defendant Walid Chocair and asked whether Pakistani national Alshair Fiyaz engaged in market manipulation with Chocair, a day trader whom the FCA accuses of making £1.4 million in profit trades made on the basis of insider information.Richard Wormald, lawyer for Walid Choucair, 39, told the jury that Alshair Fiyaz made $8.3 million in profits from three trades that mirrored ones made by the defendant.

The prosecution said Choucair made 1.4 million pounds ($1.8 million) profit from five trades in 2013 and 2014.Richard Wormald revealed the information to the court after the prosecution had cast doubt over the trader’s defense that he was getting his investment ideas from associates including Fiyaz and not from his friend at UBS. The prosecution said it was “odd” for him to receive tips from his trading buddies, but to place the trades before them.

Choucair responded that he went first, because the sums he was trading were less likely to move the market.The prosecutors for the UK financial regulator allege that Choucair received tips from Fabiana Abdel-Malek, an ex-UBS compliance officer known to have accessed confidential information on deals and was using a burner phone to communicate with Choucair. Both deny the charges, saying their friendship was entirely social and they were not involved in market manipulation. It emerged during the proceedings that in April 2014, Choucair arranged to meet with Fiyaz at a hotel in Knightsbridge to discuss rumors around a takeover of NorthStar Realty Finance Corp. Its alleged that shortly before the meeting, he started buying shares in the company.

The prosecution alleged that Abdel-Malek had printed out price-sensitive information about the proposed deal and given it to Choucair before his meeting with Fiyaz, suggesting that the other trader was not the source of his information. Choucair had a different version.After Choucair bought the NorthStar shares, his other associates, Fiyaz, Nathaniel Glas, and Alexis Kuperfis did the same, the prosecutor John McGuinness told the jury.The prosecutor showed Choucair the kind of price sensitive information Abdel-Malek had accessed on the UBS database.The jury heard that disseminating false rumours in the market could amount to a criminal offence. Mr Fiyaz, 46, has not been charged with any offence.

The Pakistani billionaire was not named on the FCA’s indictment and has not been in court to answer the prosecutor’s questions in person. Mr Choucair faces five counts of insider trading filed by the FCA along with Fabiana Abdel-Malek, a former compliance officer at UBS whom the regulator alleges passed Mr Choucair confidential information on companies that the Swiss bank was advising. Insider trading carries a maximum seven-year sentence. The jury had reached a hung verdict and the court said that new trial will take place in April 2019. Alshair Fiyaz had humble beginnings. His father Raja Shamshad Hussain was an ordinary man who started with menial jobs and made money in grocery and real estate in UK. He now owns prime real estate in Islamabad worth billions and little is known of the source of income. His brother Raja Sajjad Hussain, a Pakistani national and his son Ameel Hussain who were found to be involved in VAT scam in UK and have fled UK, now own real estate in Dubai and in Pakistan.

It is believed the same money from VAT scam has now filtered into real estate across the world. It is yet to be determined how and from what source these properties were bought in Pakistan and Dubai.UK’s Assets Recovery Agency had seized the family’s property estimated at £1.7 million and they fled the country. Since 2006, they have not returned to the UK because they will be sent to jail for evading justice. The Assets Recovery Agency had alleged that they acquired properties in London and Hounslow from the proceeds of unlawful activity connected to VAT fraud.

A spokesman of the Assets Recovery Agency said that Raja Sajjad Hussain and Ameel Hussain, brother and nephew of Shamshad Hussain respectively, are wanted in connection with the VAT fraud and will be arrested as soon as they come back to the UK. 

The Assets Recovery Agency spokesman said that it had been granted a Property Freezing Order over assets estimated at  around £1.7m held by Hussain Sajjad, Ameel Sajjad, Farah Diba Sajjad, Amokrane Sabet, Rehana Mujahid, Vodaman PLC, Curzon Group Holdings Limited and Deauville Properties Limited. This case was referred to the Agency by HM Revenue and Customs. The Agency’s case was that the respondents sought to use bogus invoices in an attempt to reduce their tax liability. 

Alshair Fiyaz and his brother Javed Fiyaz live in London, St. Tropez and Monaco. Alshair Fiyaz was also named in Panama Papers. He is the founder of ALFI Investments. Alshair Fiyaz also owns the Polo Club Saint Tropez.

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