"this case should have been closed a long time ago."
Birmingham man Nisar Afzal fled to Pakistan following allegations that he was part of a £49 million fraud operation.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigated the case for 15 years before suddenly ending their pursuit.
Nisar’s family have now spoken about his ordeal.
Nisar, who has always denied the allegations, was accused of being part of a criminal enterprise to fraudulently obtain millions of pounds in mortgage loans.
He had his bank accounts frozen and personal assets seized in his absence.
His brother Saghir Afzal was later jailed for 13 years after admitting his role in the scam. In 2013, his sentence was increased by 10 years after he failed to divulge the whereabouts of millions of pounds connected to the case, as ordered by the courts.
The Serious Fraud Office have now ended their pursuit of Nisar after 15 years, leaving him free to return to Birmingham.
Nisar fled to Pakistan because he believed he would not get a fair hearing.
Investigators claimed that he was involved in the fraud and was believed to have control of £26 million linked to it.
Gold jewellery he owned, believed to be worth £500,000, and two properties worth £1.5 million in Birmingham were seized.
In 2019, the SFO proclaimed its success at seizing the assets, saying that doing so sent out “a clear message to anyone involved in fraud, bribery or corruption – that we will work tirelessly to get back the proceeds of your crimes”.
His nephew Asim Afzal said it marks the end of a “nightmare” time.
He told Birmingham Mail:
“The Serious Fraud Office has taken the right decision in dropping the case altogether – but this case should have been closed a long time ago.
“There were no grounds to spend tens of millions of pounds on the witch hunt of our family, from the public purse.”
He said there were “loopholes” and “issues” with the case against his family “from day one”.
The case against his uncle fell down “because he was not involved in the acts of criminality that the SFO alleged”.
Asim claimed that his father Saghir Afzal only pleaded guilty because Nisar had been kidnapped in Pakistan at the time of the trial and he had “no choice” but to make an admission.
He added: “Saghir protested at the time that he was pleading under duress as his brother was being held by kidnappers in Pakistan.”
But the case proceeded and Saghir was jailed.
His family are now pursuing legal steps to try and get his conviction reconsidered.
During the 15 years in exile, Nisar revealed that he was too afraid to return.
Asim also said that his uncle saw his reputation tarnished and legitimately gained assets seized.
While Asim has called for Nisar’s assets to be returned, the SFO says it does not intend to return them as of yet.
Asim said lawyers representing his uncle are “involved in discussions with the SFO, demanding the release of several items seized without his permission and consent”.
He said: “These items have huge sentimental value to Nisar. None of it is about money.
“Every legal option will be explored to get the assets back, as these assets have been made through rightful means.”
The lawyers have offered to provide the SFO with receipts for the seized items.
Of Nisar’s 15 years in exile, his family said:
“It has been a painful experience for over 15 years. Britain is his home and he has always loved the city of Birmingham, where he was involved in several charitable initiatives.
“He didn’t leave the city on his own free will.
“He was forced to leave the city for Pakistan when he realised that it was not possible to get fairness.”
“While in Pakistan he missed many family bereavements – his cousins, brother-in-laws and other family members passed away when he couldn’t be present.
“But more importantly his daughter passed away – and he couldn’t be by her side in hospital, nor there for her funeral or burial.”
Of the encounters with the SFO, the family claim Nisar “constantly asked and offered to the SFO that he would return to the UK once the SFO confirmed it has completed its investigations in both the UK and Pakistan. The SFO refused to do so”.
Asim added: “This has been a harrowing experience when you are put up against a public body with the full might of the state and access to the public purse with far-reaching powers.
“In this case, everything was done to ruin the lives of Afzals by the SFO.
“The Afzals were victimised at all levels, including in Pakistan.”
According to the family, Nisar was detained for several months in inhumane conditions.
Asim said: “Nisar Afzal is relieved that the case has been dropped but 15 long years have been wasted and lost and his whole life was turned upside down.
“He’s in talks with his lawyers to consider next legal options.
“Mr Nisar Afzal will be travelling to the UK when his health situation permits, as he’s currently receiving treatment. He will be travelling to the UK soon.”