Attorney seeks dismissal of lawsuits against Nauman Hussain’s uncle in Schoharie limo disaster

A wooden memorial where family, friends and the public could sign and give thoughts at the site of the limo crash on Route 30A in Schoharie is seen on Oct. 9, 2018.

A wooden memorial where family, friends and the public could sign and give thoughts at the site of the limo crash on Route 30A in Schoharie is seen on Oct. 9, 2018.

ALBANY — A motion submitted to a judge this week would remove a wealthy Pakistani housing developer as a defendant in nine lawsuits filed over the October 2018 Schoharie limousine disaster, which killed 20 people.

Attorneys for Malik Riaz Hussain on June 17, 2021 asked a judge to dismiss the cases against him. After nine months and scores of court filings by all sides, Hussain’s attorney on Monday submitted to Judge Denise Hartman a proposed motion of dismissal in state Supreme Court, Albany County, and said the plaintiffs’ attorneys had indicated no opposition to the move.

Malik Riaz Hussain is the uncle of Nauman Hussain, who pleaded guilty Sept. 2, 2021, to 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide.

Nauman, operator of Prestige Limousine, was accused of failing to maintain the vehicle that suffered a catastrophic brake failure on the steep Route 30 hill in Schoharie. The driver, all 17 passengers and two bystanders in the parking lot at the bottom of the hill were killed in the resulting crash.

The victims in the limo had hired Prestige for a birthday outing to Cooperstown on Oct. 6, 2017; many were from Amsterdam and most were interconnected by blood relations, marriage and friendship, compounding the enormity of their deaths for the community left to mourn them.

Also left scarred were the emergency personnel who rushed to the scene of the crash hoping to save lives but instead finding carnage on a horrifying scale.

Nauman took a plea deal and avoided prison time in a case that had some significant weaknesses the defense would have exploited. Having pleaded guilty he is now compelled to provide sworn depositions and testimony in civil litigation filed by survivors of the victims. 

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On Feb. 11, 2022, Nauman gave a 90-minute videotaped deposition on the case, during which he stated Malik did not operate Prestige and had no financial interest in it.

Malik himself made the same point via video link from Pakistan in a deposition on May 27, 2021: He had no interest in Prestige or a motel that was operated by his brother Shahed and/or Shahed’s sons Nauman and Shaher.

Answering questions from Robert Abdella, attorney for the estates of brothers Richard and Axel Steenburg, Malik said he works in housing development in Pakistan and has 25,000 employees.

He described his relationship with his brother Shahed as strained, saying they had minimal contact except when Shahed wanted money, and even those requests usually went through one of their eight siblings.

Shahed was the actual owner of Prestige. He was in Pakistan at the time of the crash and has not returned to the United States. He has some notoriety as a former paid FBI informant in cases that some maintain bordered on entrapment.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, an Amsterdam native, has tried without success this year to squeeze details out of the FBI about reports the agency might have shielded Shahed from consequences of wide-ranging misconduct far beyond the limo crash.

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U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is running for re-election in a district likely to include Amsterdam, pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray for answers on Tuesday, also without success. She said she would subpoena answers if the Republican Party takes control of the House of Representatives.

Much of Malik’s 2021 deposition centered on the Crest Inn Suites & Cottages, a now-defunct motel on Route 9 in Wilton that he helped pay for and which at one time was the base of operations of Prestige. All the way through, he denied the connections that could make him liable for the crash.

Malik said had never even seen it but gave Shahed $250,000 toward purchase and put his own name on the deed to keep Shahed from selling the property or taking out a loan against it. He said he transferred the property to his nephews in 2017 after he developed cancer, but the transfer was not recorded for reasons unknown to him — his name remains as owner in online county property records. 

Malik said he never knew his brother or nephews were operating a limo company, had no financial interest in it and didn’t know it was operating out of the hotel. (Nauman said in his deposition that Prestige had moved out of the motel before the crash.)

Malik did say he had given Shahed 10 million Pakistani rupees — about $60,000 U.S. dollars — in March 2018 because Shahed told him through a sister “he wanted to buy some car.”

Malik said he grew sad and emotional when he heard of the crash from a brother in Canada but did not attempt to contact Shahed because he wouldn’t have answered, knowing Malik would lecture him.

Malik described Shahed as unreliable and untruthful, and said they haven’t spoken since the crash.

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