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ISLAMABAD: The accountability court of Islamabad on Wednesday reserved its verdict on the acquittal of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) president Saeed Ahmed in a reference related to the assets of former finance minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar.

Saeed Ahmed was nominated as a co-accused in the reference and was charged with opening accounts which were allegedly used by former minister Dar for money laundering. Mr Dar has already been declared a proclaimed offender by the accountability court.

According to the National Accoun­tability Bureau (NAB) reference, it was rev­ealed during the course of investigation “accused Saeed Ahmed was one of the directors of Hajveri Modaraba Manag­ement Company and 7,000 shares in Haj­veri Holding (Pvt) Limited were transferred in his favour from the wife of the pri­n­cipal accused [Mohammad Ishaq Dar]”.

NAB urges court to allow it to produce 56 witnesses in the reference against Saeed Ahmed

In its reference, NAB stated that seven bank accounts were opened in the name of the NBP president that as per an investigation conducted by NAB were prima facie used for the benefit of the ex-minister and his companies.

The bureau alleged that the bank president had intentionally allowed then finance minister Dar to open/operate/use bank accounts in his name to protect his ‘ill-gotten money’.

The NBP president, through his counsel Hashmat Habib, filed the application under Section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code, which allows a judge to acquit an accused at any stage of trial.

The defence counsel stated that even if NAB’s stance was presumed correct for the sake of arguments, there was no charge that may fall under the ambit of National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 against his client.

The counsel stated that the prosecution had levelled three allegations under different sub-sections of Section 9 of the NAO 1999 that was related to corruption and corrupt practices, abetment and misuse of authority.

He said the “legal effect that the [corruption] charge [had] on other accounts has become redundant”, because the court had earlier dropped corruption charge against the NBP president.

He then cited the Supreme Court’s verdict in NAB versus Hudaibya Paper Mills case, where the apex court turned down the bureau’s request for reviving the reference against the Sharif family. In the Hudaibya Mills case, he added, the superior courts had already dealt with the identical matter of opening of bank accounts and transaction of money and have absolved the accused persons.

The counsel argued, “The reference also does not mention the ingredients that constitute the aforesaid offences or provide any example of misuse of authority.”

He said the prosecution could not produce any witness to corroborate the allegation pertaining to misuse of authority by the NBP president. “Thus, this is a case fit to be discharged and the applicant is entitled to acquittal,” he added.

However, NAB special prosecutor Imran Shafiq requested the court to allow the bureau to prove its case, as the prosecution could produce 56 witnesses to corroborate the evidence. He said it was white-collar crime and therefore the allegations against the NBP president required due time and legal process to be proved.

According to the special prosecutor, the bureau had detected transaction of huge amounts from different bank accounts opened in the name of the NBP president. He reiterated that the prosecution had sufficient evidence to establish the case against him. The NBP president had earlier filed a similar application in March, claiming that the reference against him had been filed on the basis of assumption which as per NAB’s understanding amounted to aiding and abetting the offence.

Meanwhile, NBP President Saeed Ahmed wrote a letter to NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal against the alleged high-handedness of NAB officials including the investigation officer in the assets reference of Dar.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2018