Ishaq Dar not subject to any red notice: Interpol

Updated November 05, 2019

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FIA had issued red warrants for former finance minister Ishaq Dar last year. — AFP/File
FIA had issued red warrants for former finance minister Ishaq Dar last year. — AFP/File

LONDON: The government’s attempts to build pressure on former finance minister Ishaq Dar suffered a setback this week as it emerged that Interpol, the international body which facilitates worldwide police and crime control cooperation, has said the self-exiled PML-N leader is not subject to any red notice or diffusion.

Interpol’s General Secretariat in a letter available with Dawn said: “Mr Dar Mohammad Ishaq born on 13 May 1950 is not subject to an Interpol red notice or diffusion.”

The decision was taken by Interpol during its 109th session held in July.

“After a thorough examination of the elements before it, the commission found that the data challenged raised questions as to compliance with applicable rules. As a result, it considered that the retention of these data in the Interpol information system was not compliant with Interpol’s rules and decided that they should be deleted,” it said.

Last year, former chief justice Saqib Nisar on several occasions demanded to know the whereabouts of Mr Dar during court hearings, and took a keen interest in his extradition from the United Kingdom where he is currently residing. In July 2018, the attorney general told the apex court that the interior ministry on a request of the Federal Investigation Agency had issued red warrants and was now waiting for a reply from Interpol. The court was also informed that Mr Dar’s properties in Pakistan had been forfeited.

PML-N celebrates notice as victory; govt says development has no bearing on extradition

In a September 2018 hearing, Additional Attorney General Nayyar Abbas Rizvi had informed the court that the government was taking steps to bring Mr Dar back home for which contacts had been established with Interpol for the issuance of red warrants. “But the matter is still pending with Interpol,” he had said, adding that it usually takes a few months to extradite an individual.

Ali Dar, the son of Mr Dar, told Dawn that his father engaged a lawyer soon after he saw news reports of the government’s request to Interpol. “Initially, when we found out that the [the government] wrote to Interpol, we immediately engaged a lawyer who gave Interpol our point of view,” he said. “We informed them about Mr Dar’s health issues and also briefed them on the merits of the cases against him to substantiate our innocence.” He added that the lawyer submitted audits of Mr Dar’s accounts “reconciled down to the penny” to Interpol.

This summer, at Interpol’s 109th session between July 1 and 5, the international body studied Mr Dar’s request according to its procedures and decided to delete Mr Dar’s name from its database due to non-compliance with rules.

While PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif has welcomed the development as proof of Mr Dar’s innocence, the government says the removal of the red notice has no bearing on his extradition.

“The removal of Ishaq Dar’s name has no bearing on the extradition case against him,” the PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar told Dawn. Mr Akbar also said the request to Interpol regarding Mr Dar was not initiated or pursued by the Asset Recovery Unit, and that his department’s main focus is on the extradition case.

“We have highlighted Mr Dar’s extradition to UK authorities. Although we are making our best efforts to expedite it, these things take time. The UK authorities have sent us questions which NAB has responded to.”

Mr Akbar added that the government is now waiting for the British secretary of state to sign the documents pertaining to Mr Dar’s extradition, after which they hope the case will go to court.

When asked why the government is spending so much of its time and funds on a complicated extradition case which is difficult to prove, Mr Akbar said that no funds from the public exchequer are being spent on this as he has not made any trips to the UK but has liaised with the UK’s representatives in Pakistan.

When asked to comment on the controversy being courted by the Asset Recovery Unit, Mr Akbar said it was formed after a Supreme Court order to bring back looted wealth. “[It was formed] to stop money laundering, to get Pakistan’s name out of the FATF lists and to ensure coordination among all institutions.”

How to challenge a red notice

A red notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition. It is published by Interpol at the request of a member country, and must comply with Interpol’s constitution and rules. A red notice is not an international arrest warrant and does not lead to automatic arrest in the UK.

London-based law firm Kingsley Napley, which is skilled in dealing with complex extradition cases, explained the following in a statement: “Although the nature and grounds of any approach will vary from case to case, it is possible to challenge a Red Notice on the grounds that it offends Interpol’s own particular rules, that is, its Constitution and the Rules on the Processing of Data. For example, the Constitution prevents Interpol from undertaking any intervention or activities of a ‘political, military, religious or racial character’ whilst the Rules on the Processing of Data prevent Interpol from publishing a red notice where the offence originates from a violation of laws or regulations of an administrative nature or deriving from private disputes.”

It added that an Interpol red notice can severely inhibit a person’s liberty, and have drastic consequences for a person’s reputation.

In a statement issued last night, the Islamabad NAB said: “Interpol does not have the right to declare anyone innocent because Interpol is contacted only pertaining to the arrest of the concerned person.”

With respect to Ishaq Dar’s red notice rejected by Interpol, NAB said it is considering other options. “The cases against Dar can only be adjudicated in Pakistan. If Ishaq Dar is so convinced of his innocence he should return and defend himself,” it added.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2019