LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, retired justice Javed Iqbal has expressed frustration over what he called ‘cold response’ from other countries with regard to providing legal assistance required to proceed against the suspects having off-shore holdings.
“White-collar crime begins from Lahore and reaches Islamabad from where it goes to Dubai and other states and one fine morning we come to know that properties and farm houses have been made (by suspects) in Europe, the USA and Australia. When we approach these countries [they do not bother] because we have a begging bowl in our hand, how come we [could] talk to them on equal footing,” he said in a talk with businessmen at the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries here on Thursday.
He said even a small country did not listen to Pakistan when it sought evidence against a suspect.
Citing example of a suspect from Lahore, the chairman said that he (suspect) in 1980s and 1990s was on a bike and now he had plazas and towers in Dubai.
“We tried to bring him (the suspect) back from the country he was presently living in, but a court there granted him a stay and we failed to bring him back,” he said apparently referring to former fiance minister Ishaq Dar who was in London. Dar has been declared a proclaimed offender by a Pakistani court in a corruption reference.
“NAB is investigating cases against those who ruled the country for 35 years. NAB never overstepped its jurisdiction as it has no affiliation with the government,” he claimed.
“Nobody could have ever imagined that “someone” would be in NAB custody and facing courts. There are several mafias in the country and NAB is performing its duty honestly,” he said and added that he just wanted to ask that the country was under $100bn debt and where the amount was spent.
Regarding the option of “plea bargain” offered to the suspects by the NAB, Mr Iqbal said: “It will be a grave injustice if the thieves were let off the hook by paying 10 percent of whatever they had embezzled,” adding that a suspect could make all the money again in just three days if he got a powerful position.
Denying the allegation that NAB forced suspects to become an approver against ‘big guns’, retired justice Iqbal said:
“NAB does not force any suspect to become an approver against anyone,” challenging the businessmen to bring forth even one such case.
He assured the business community, that NAB would not take up any case of tax evasion against them. “Tax evasion cases related to businessmen will be referred to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as these are different from [those pertaining to] money laundering,” he said and added that the bureau was investigating such cases on the apex court’s order.
Mr Iqbal also told the businessmen that NAB did not take action directly on bank default cases as these were referred to it by banks.
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2019