KARACHI: The National Accountability Bureau informed an accountability court on Wednesday that it had seized record from the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSE) and issued notices to M/s JS Global and others to provide their trading and all market record as part of the anti-graft watchdog’s investigation into former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain’s alleged disclosures regarding the 2008 Karachi Stock Exchange crash.

Dr Asim, a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari, has spent over five months in the custody of various law enforcement agencies since his arrest in August last year and NAB has been keeping his custody since Dec 11, 2015.

The former petroleum minister is facing an inquiry involving an amount of Rs13 billion into alleged misuse of authority in fraudulent allotment of plots and encroachment of state land for Dr Ziauddin Hospital/Trust, illegal gains, kickbacks and commission through a fertilizer cartel for illegal curtailment of gas for an exploitative price hike and black marketing, fraud with public in the name of charity hospital and money laundering.

He was produced in court again on Wednesday and the investigation officer, Zameer Abbasi, sought another 15-day extension — till Feb 9 — in his remand for further questioning, collection of more evidence and arrest of absconders.

Former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain has been remanded in NAB custody for another 15 days

The IO also submitted a progress report in court stating that the record seized from the PSE, Central Depository Company, Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan and National Clearing Company of Pakistan Limited corroborated the offence of fraudulent and manipulative trading to profit the family members of JS Group and loss to public and private organisations as well as individuals through a bubble effect and manipulative jacking up of share prices.

Further record from banks and investment companies was also called to determine the losses, while notices were issued to the PSE, JS Global and M/s Aziz Fida Hussain (a brokerage firm) for provision of trading and all market record, the report added.

The IO submitted that in the light of a court order Dr Asim had been shifted to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre upon the recommendation of a medical board constituted by the JPMC director.

Defence lawyer Amir Raza Naqvi strongly opposed a further extension in remand and once again insisted that there was no substance against his client when NAB had arrested him and his detention was illegal.

While expressing apprehensions over the health of Dr Asim, the counsel argued that the former minister had been in the custody of different law enforcement agencies for around 160 days since his arrest, adding that his client was being harassed at the hospital and lawyers and his family members were being barred from meeting him.

NAB deputy prosecutor general Amjad Ali Shah said that they had made key developments during investigation and everybody was aware of the substance against the suspect.

After hearing arguments and examining the documents, the administrative judge of accountability courts, Saad Qureshi, remanded Dr Asim in NAB custody till Feb 9.

The IO submitted in the progress report that the NAB recorded statements of four more witnesses and questioned a new suspect.

According to the report, being the minister of petroleum and natural resources in 2009-10 the suspect was tasked by the Economic Coordination Committee to fairly cater to the gas needs of various sectors, but he arbitrarily imposed unprecedented gas curtailment and misled the ECC that resulted in a shortage of urea causing sharp price increase.

It further alleged that between 2009 and 2011 Dr Asim also caused a loss of Rs2.3bn to the exchanger as he had decided to divert the gas from the Karachi Electric Supply Company to the SNGPL in the name of winter load management; although a public functionary could not take such a decision to benefit a private company.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2016