ISLAMABAD: The Natio­nal Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday seized the bank accounts and properties of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar as an accountability court initiated proceedings against him in a corruption reference.

The Lahore NAB wrote to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), reminding the banking regulator that since a reference was pending against Mr Dar, “the bank accounts of Mr Ishaq Dar, Federal Minister, may be cautioned”.

The bureau, however, left room for transactions from these accounts, as NAB had made them subject to the orders of the accountability court.

NAB delivers summons at finance minister’s residence in his absence

NAB has also written to district governments, asking them to stop any transfer or disposal of the properties owned by Mr Dar, warning that in case of non-compliance, they could face up to three years in prison under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.

In addition, a NAB team visited the minister’s residence in the capital on Wednesday to execute his arrest warrants. “Since Mr Dar is already abroad, the officials handed over the warrants along with the court summons to his staff,” said a statement from the bureau.

The visit came after an accountability court issued bailable arrest warrants for Finance Minister Dar in the reference filed against him for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.

The warrants were issued against a surety bond of Rs1 million.

On Sept 8, NAB had filed a reference against Mr Dar, and three separate references against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his children.

Directions to file the references came from the Supreme Court in its July 28 verdict, on the basis of an investigation report prepared by a Joint Investi­ga­tion Team (JIT) consisting of officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, NAB, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the SBP.

On Sept 12, the apex court took up review petitions against the July 28 judgement and dismissed the petitions within four days. On Sept 19, Accountability Court Judge Mohammad Bashir re-issued summons for Mr Sharif and his family members since none of them, including Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Captain Safdar, had shown up in court.

The counsel for the Pak­istan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had also not appeared before the court as the Sharif family is yet to decide whether they will face the trial proceedings or not. Members of the Sharif family have frequently expressed reservations over the Supreme Court’s verdict and the subsequent judicial process initiated for accoun­tability which, under the apex court’s direction, is to be concluded within six months.

Mr Dar, however, may appear before the accountability court on Sept 25, the next date of hearing.

During the hearing on Wednesday, Mr Dar’s staff officer Fazal Dad informed the court that summons had been received and it was in the knowledge of the finance minister. He explained, however, that Mr Dar was in London on a private visit. “His seat was confirmed and he wanted to return but he couldn’t,” he added.

The court noted in its order, that the summons was handed over to the minister’s driver, and his protocol officer was also informed about it.

Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir also noted that the previous summons had been returned with proper execution as the driver’s statement had been annexed with it.

The same court on Sept 19 had declined a verbal request made by the NAB’s prosecution for issuance of bailable arrest warrants for the Sharif family, after the judge observed that the NAB did not properly execute the summons to them.

The Sharif family is facing three cases pertaining to the Avenfield (London) properties, the establishment of 16 companies in the UK and a third reference against them is related to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment Jeddah.

In the reference against Mr Dar, the NAB alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests / resources in his own name and / or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx).” The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for.”

The NAB, however, termed the reference as “interim” since it was based on “material collected by the JIT, the FIA and the NAB till date”, and said that it reserved the right to file a supplementary reference.

According to the reference, it is yet to establish any role of the incumbent chief executive officer of the National Bank of Pakistan “in aiding and abetting the accused (Ishaq Dar) in the acquisition of the stated properties.”

The accountability court would resume proceeding on Mr Dar’s reference on Sept 25 and against the Sharif family on Sept 26.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2017

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