Former UKIP spokesman was kidnapping gang 'boss'

UKIP says Mujeeb Bhutto is no longer a member of the party, as BBC Newsnight reports

A man who served as UKIP's Commonwealth spokesman for a year is the former leader of a kidnapping gang in Pakistan, BBC Newsnight has revealed.

Mujeeb ur Rehman Bhutto's gang were behind a high-profile kidnapping in Karachi in 2004 and he then took a £56,000 ransom payment in Manchester.

In 2005, Bhutto, of Leeds, admitted being the gang's "boss" and was jailed for seven years by a UK court.

UKIP said Bhutto, 35, had "recently" resigned his party membership.

A party spokesman said: "When we recently became aware of possible issues relating to his past and raised the matter with him, he resigned his membership."

Bhutto joined UKIP in 2011 and regularly appeared as UKIP's Commonwealth spokesman, and as a party representative in local and national media. He said he had left the party in December 2013.

He organised a trip to a Leeds mosque for party leader Nigel Farage and, during the 2012 Rotherham by-election, canvassed with UKIP candidate Jane Collins.

'Beheading threat'

Bhutto, who is also a former member of the Conservative Party, told Newsnight he had admitted the charges against him in 2005 rather than risk being sent back to Pakistan and hanged.

"The evidence which was brought against me was from Pakistan. The allegation was simply because of political rivalry," he said.

Start Quote

There were two things that were different about this case. One was that there was an involvement with a city which was 5,000 miles away in the UK. The second was that the guys who did it actually got caught”

End Quote Journalist Shahed Sadullah

He said he planned to appeal against his conviction for conspiracy to blackmail.

Bhutto said he had been granted political asylum in the UK in 2008 and that the case against him in Pakistan had been thrown out by the country's Supreme Court.

But senior Pakistani police sources insisted that Bhutto was still wanted in Pakistan.

In June 2004, a gang led by Bhutto kidnapped Ahmed Naeem, the son of a wealthy businessman, at gunpoint from a car on a Karachi residential street.

Five days later Bhutto flew to England.

He then negotiated a ransom payment with Mr Naeem's father, Mohammed Naeem.

"I have the power to give you such torture that you won't forget it for the rest of your life," Bhutto said in calls to Mohammed Naeem that were recorded by Pakistani police and reported during his 2005 court case.

Grant Shapps: "He is not now a member of the Conservative Party"

Bhutto at one point threatened to have Ahmed Naeem's head cut off and sent to his father, according to court evidence.

Police in Karachi assisted the victim's family, and a police source delivered a £56,000 ransom to a car park at Manchester's Arndale shopping centre. Ahmed Naeem was then released by the gang in Pakistan.

Bhutto was swiftly arrested by Greater Manchester Police in co-operation with Pakistan police.

Ransom in bed

The £56,000 ransom was found hidden in Bhutto's bed in a house in Leeds, and he was forced to repay it when he appeared in court.

He was sentenced under the name Majeebur Bhutto.

"You came to the UK to avoid the risk of detection in Pakistan, where kidnapping is a capital offence," said the judge, Martin Steiger.

The other gang members were initially sentenced to death in Pakistan for the offence of kidnapping for ransom, but their sentences were commuted to life in prison in 2007 and one was released.

"Kidnappings have really gone through the roof in Pakistan. It's the main form of getting money for many terrorist organisations," said Shahed Sadullah, former editor of The News, part of the bilingual paper The Daily Jang.

Start Quote

UKIP are certainly trying to professionalise, to move away from its more amateurish origins”

End Quote Matthew Goodwin Chatham House

"There were two things that were different about this case. One was that there was an involvement with a city which was 5,000 miles away in the UK. The second was that the guys who did it actually got caught."

In a regional UKIP newsletter from May 2013, Bhutto stated that he had been a member of the party since 2011.

"Our policy in UKIP is not to attack foreign nations, but to work with like-minded parties and support them so there is no export of terrorism to our shores," he said.

During an appearance on BBC debating show The Big Questions in March 2013, when he was frequently referred to as "UKIP's Commonwealth spokesman", Bhutto said: "We want controlled immigration where we know who's coming in, who's going out."

Hailed on Twitter

UKIP candidates, associations and official social media channels have previously posted messages indicating that Bhutto had a role as a UKIP representative, beyond being just a party member.

"UKIP have plenty of quality spokesman… Mujeeb Bhutto," UKIP Bradford and district chairman Jason Smith wrote on Twitter in May 2013.

"Watch UKIP's Mujeeb Bhutto speak out against mass uncontrolled immigration on the BBC's Big Question," read a tweet from UKIP's official Twitter feed in March 2013.

Jane Collins said on Twitter in March 2013 that Mr Bhutto was "fantastic on BBC Big Question this am. What an asset for UKIP".

In the course of the last month, Twitter, LinkedIn and multiple Facebook profiles of Mujeeb Bhutto have been deleted from the internet.

"If you don't have any discipline and tight screening of candidates, you are perpetually going to be in trouble," said Matthew Goodwin, of policy institute Chatham House and co-author of Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain.

"UKIP are certainly trying to professionalise, to move away from its more amateurish origins."

Grant Shapps, Conservative Party chairman, said Bhutto had been a member of the party for a year in 2008-9.

Mr Shapps said: "He attempted to re-join the party last week after having been the UKIP spokesman. Because he's the spokesman for another party, we simply rejected that application.

"He is not now a member of the Conservative Party."

You can also see the report in full via the Newsnight website or the BBC iPlayer.

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  72.  
    12:14: TV debates?

    Ed Miliband tries once again, asking the PM if he will commit to the debates - which is met with the same reply from the PM, who adds that Mr Miliband wants to avoid debating with the Greens. This gives him the chance to joke that Labour's leader had seen Natalie Bennett's "car crash" interview last week as a "master class". That brings the leaders' exchanges to a close.

     
  73.  
    12:12: TV debates?

    "So it's all about leadership?" responds Ed Miliband - which gets cheers from the Tory backbenchers. The Labour leader changes subjects, and goes on the attack over TV election debates, asking the PM if he will commit to the proposed head-to-head debate with him on 30 April. Mr Cameron does not say he will take part, saying "we're having a debate now" and says Miliband can't talk about jobs or the economy because of the government's success.

     
  74.  
    12:10: Election leaflets

    The PM takes a swipe at Ed Miliband whom he says Labour MPs do not want to feature on their election leaflets. He asks for a show of hands for those going to feature Mr Miliband on their leaflets. Lots of arms are raised on the Conservative benches.

     
  75.  
    12:11: Speaker calls for order House of Commons Parliament
    John Bercow

    Speaker John Bercow tries to quieten noisy MPs, telling them they should consider what their rowdiness looks like to the public, whose votes they will be seeking soon.

     
  76.  
    @DJack_Journo David Jack, The Times

    tweets: Cheeky of Miliband to attack Cam on migration given Labour's open-doors policy #PMQs

     
  77.  
    @georgeeaton George Eaton, The New Statesman

    tweets: Challenge for Miliband is to criticise Cameron for breaking a promise without appearing anti-immigration. #PMQs

     
  78.  
    12:08: UKIP immigration policy

    UKIP's immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe says the party's points-based system will work like someone "submitting a CV". "People from anywhere across the world, irrespective of whatever culture, creed, nationality you are, goes onto our system whether its online or through an organisation helping them and puts in their application," he says.

    "If they fit the points they go through to the next stage. Then the Commission will work out what sort of numbers we need for each year. If it says we need 50,000 people that year then we'll have 50,000 visa available and that goes through those people that have passed."

     
  79.  
    12:07: Speaker speaks

    Speaker Bercow is on his feet again, and calls for order (it's getting pretty rowdy in the chamber). Over to Ed Miliband, who says the PM must admit he has broken his promise. David Cameron says he has cut migration from outside the EU but that it has risen from within the EU. He's back to his list of commitments met again.

     
  80.  
    12:07: Promises kept

    After Ed Miliband accuses David Cameron of breaking his promise to cut net migration, the PM reels off a list of pledges that he says the government has honoured - much to his backbenchers' delight. Speaker John Bercow cuts him off for taking too long, opening the floor to Ed Miliband who says Mr Cameron's promise on immigration was not worth the paper it's written on.

     
  81.  
    12:06: Pic: Miliband waves migration pledge
    Ed Miliband
     
  82.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror

    tweets: Cameron again refuses to say if he discussed tax avoidance with Lord Green. He did/didn't*(*delete according to politics) #pmqs

     
  83.  
    12:06: Cameron hits back

    David Cameron adds that he wants to keep the economy strong but change the benefits system. Labour wants to protect the benefits system and trash the economy, he adds.

     
  84.  
    12:04: Miliband on immigration

    Ed Miliband is on his feet and begins his questioning on immigration. He says the PM made a "no ifs, no buts" promise to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands and had said people should vote him out if he didn't keep it but now it's higher than when he took office, he says. David Cameron says the strength of the UK economy and the benefits system were the reasons why migration had gone up.

     
  85.  
    @Markfergusonuk Mark Ferguson, Labour List

    tweets: Lots of empty space on the green benches today #pmqs

     
  86.  
    12:02: Lord Green kicks it off

    The first question to the PM comes from Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, who asks David Cameron to clarify whether he or the chancellor had a conversation with former trade minister Lord Green about HSBC's tax affairs. David Cameron responds by saying all the proper checks were made on Lord Green's appointment, and that Labour had employed him as a trade adviser.

     
  87.  
    12:02: Pic: David Cameron
    David Cameron
     
  88.  
    @Mike_Fabricant Michael Fabricant, Tory MP

    tweets: Am told that tomorrow is World Erotic Book Day. Shall I ask at #PMQs what the PM will do to mark it? (Maybe not).

     
  89.  
    12:00: Likely subjects? Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Guardian commentator Nick Watt offers his predictions on Ed Miliband's line of questioning at this week's PMQs. He thinks the Labour leader would be on more comfortable ground if he goes on David Cameron's "failure" to meet the net migration target, rather than this morning's IFS report on household incomes.

     
  90.  
    11:59: Pic: Cameron in the House
    David Cameron
     
  91.  
    11:57: UKIP immigration policy 'consistent' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Tim Aker, UKIP MEP and parliamentary candidate for Thurrock, rejects assertions that UKIP has changed its mind on its immigration policy. He says the party has been "consistent", and that its target is to bring immigration under control.

     
  92.  
    @AngusMacNeilMP Angus MacNeil, SNP

    tweets: Interesting on @bbc5live panel..Farage claims of UK being most crowded country contradicted by Reckless who agreed with me - Netherlands is!

     
  93.  
    11:54: UKIP and Channel 4

    UKIP's Steven Woolfe gets a double round of applause as he says "when UKIP come into power, when we win this election... and when we do so Channel 4 by the way, I will be the immigration spokesman not the fantasy person you created."

     
  94.  
    11:52: Stephen Crabb House of Commons Parliament
    Stephen Crabb

    Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb answers questions in the Commons.

     
  95.  
    11:49: Tuition fees Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    On tuition fees, Labour front bencher Hilary Benn rejects the notion that Labour's policy - to reduce them from £9,000 to £6,000 - is "unravelling". He contends that Labour is on the side of students.

     
  96.  
    11:47: Lib Dem electoral fortunes Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Lib Dem party president Tim Farron is pressed over the party's prospects at the forthcoming election. He thinks predictions the Lib Dems will lose up to 30 seats will not prove accurate. He says if the election is a "difficult experience" and the party comes through it "then the leader deserves all the credit for bringing us through it".

     
  97.  
    @daily_politics 11:47: DailySundayPolitics
    Opinion polls tracker

    tweets: Here are the poll graphics from #bbcdp debate with @afneil @Jo_Coburn @claire4devizes @timfarron @hilarybennmp

     
  98.  
    11:47: Household incomes Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The first subject under discussion is this morning's IFS report which says average household incomes are back to where they were before the financial crisis. Conservative minister Claire Perry welcomes the report's findings and says the trend on the cost of living is "really improving".

     
  99.  
    11:47: Labour tribute to Hain and Murphy

    Shadow Wales secretary Owen Smith also pays tribute to departing Welsh MPs. He notes that the list includes two former Labour secretaries of state: Peter Hain and Paul Murphy.

    Owen Smith
     
  100.  
    11:43: Pic: UKIP's Steven Woolfe
    Steven Woolfe at UKIP immigration speech

    UKIP's immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe is speaking now. As you can see the party's slogan is Believe in Britain.

     

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