KARACHI: The National Accountability Bureau told an accountability court on Tuesday that former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain allegedly confessed to his ‘role’ in a Karachi Stock Exchange crash and named veteran stockbroker Jahangir Siddiqui and former privatisation minister Syed Naveed Qamar for illegal approval of a right issue through the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
“Interrogated accused who disclosed about another scam of Karachi Stock Exchange collapse which happened to occur in 2008-09 because of right [issue] approved in favour of Jahangir Siddiqui to the tune of $170 million,” reads a progress report submitted before the administrative judge of accountability courts Saad Qureshi by the NAB.
Dr Asim, a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari, is facing an inquiry into alleged misuse of authority in fraudulent allotment of plots and encroachment of state land for Dr Ziauddin Hospital/Trust, kickbacks and commission through fertilizer cartel for illegal curtailment, fraud with public in the name of charity hospital and money laundering.
Former federal minister remanded in NAB custody for another two weeks
On Tuesday, after the end of his third remand, the NAB produced him in court, where the investigation officer, Zameer Abbasi, submitted the progress report and claimed that 80 per cent of the investigations had been completed.
The court was informed that Dr Asim disclosed that he was privy to the effect that Jahangir Siddiqui, through one ex-DIG Malkani, approached ex-minister Qamar for approval of right issue through the SECP, which was “ultimately done in favour of Jahangir Siddiqui through SECP illegally which resulted into severe loss to KSE”.
It said that Dr Asim admitted to have extended “his role” in getting ex-DIG Malkani the right issue.
The IO told the court that more details were being collected from the KSE and SECP for “perusal of competent authority”.
The court was informed that 56 government institutions and organisations were on the panel of Dr Ziauddin Hospitals and during 2007 to 2015 the hospital charged Rs3 billion from them for providing treatment through alleged over-invoicing.
The report added that the verification of over-invoicing, falsification of accounts were to be carried out after seeking record from government organisations concerned for comparison and alleged that on the directives of the suspect exorbitant rates were charged from government-run institutions.
Referring to allegations of illegal gas curtailment, the NAB submitted that the record provided by Mari Gas Public Limited showed that in 2010 they curtailed gas from all fertilizer plants proportionately to be provided to the Guddu power plant, but the gas was not provided to the power plant and the curtailment was not justified.
It said that in 2013 gas for Guddu power plant was diverted and given to Engro Fertilizer only.
The NAB also questioned former land director of defunct Karachi Development Authority Syed Athar Hussain, also a suspect in the inquiry, regarding the allotment of an amenity plot to Dr Ziauddin Hospital, which was being run on a commercial basis.
The IO showed Abdul Hameed, the then group finance adviser of Dr Ziauddin group of hospitals and current administrator of Dr Ziauddin Medical Centre Dubai, and KDA official Hussain as absconders in the remand papers.
The IO sought yet another 15-day extension in his custody for carrying out further raids, arrests, recoveries and completion of remaining investigations.
However, defence lawyers Amir Raza Naqvi and Anwar Mansoor Khan contended that there was no substance when the NAB arrested their client and now the investigating and prosecuting agency was manufacturing evidence against him. They argued that there was no justification for further extension in the remand since their client had already spent around a month in the custody of the NAB.
They added that the recoveries had also been made and the suspect as per the report of a joint investigation team had shared whatever he had during his prolonged detention.
They maintained that the NAB was trying to shut down the entire medical set-up of Dr Asim by harassing the clients and submitted that the Aga Khan Hospital had also acquired land in a similar fashion and it was providing treatment on comparatively much higher rates. However, only Dr Ziauddin Hospitals and Dr Asim was being targeted.
They also expressed apprehensions over the health of the suspect and requested the court to send him to prison, adding that the NAB could question him even in prison after taking permission from the court if any extraordinary circumstance emerged for further interrogations.
NAB deputy prosecutor general Amjad Ali Shah argued that the anti-corruption body can keep the custody of any suspect with the consent of the court up to 90 days and Dr Asim’s custody was still required to complete the rest of investigations.
He said that further extension in remand was justified since NAB made major developments in the investigations conducted so far.
After hearing arguments and examining the documents, the administrative judge extended the physical remand of Dr Asim for two more weeks.
It is a third extension since Dec 11 when former petroleum minister was handed over to the NAB.
Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2016