ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday informed the accountability court that two accused had turned approver against former president Asif Ali Zardari in the Park Lane reference.
NAB, which had implicated ex-presidents of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Ali Raza and Qamar Hussain in the case, changed their status and included them in the list of prosecution witnesses.
Appearing before the accountability court, NAB’s deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Khan Abbasi said both the ex-chiefs of the bank were among the 61 witnesses whom the prosecution intended to produce before the court to prove the allegations against the former president.
According to NAB, Mr Raza in his confessional statement claimed that Omni Group Director Abdul Ghani Majeed was a ‘go through’ between the NBP senior management and the ex-president, as he had conveyed them the message of Mr Zardari for loan approval.
Mr Abbasi opposing the acquittal of Mr Zardari in the reference requested the court to indict him in the Park Lane case and enable the prosecution to produce evidence against him and other accused persons.
Mr Zardari had been accused of being involved “in extending loan and its misappropriation by M/s Parthenon Private Limited, M/s Park Lane Estate Private Limited and others”.
In his arguments, Advocate Farooq H. Naek, the counsel for Mr Zardari, informed the court that the former president had been a director of M/s Park Lane, but he resigned from the company in 2008 before assuming the office of the president of Pakistan.
The defence counsel said that NAB as usual had overlooked all financial laws while filing the reference against his client. He argued that NAB could not have proceeded in the case without the mandatory approval/reference of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) against Mr Zardari.
Prima facie, he said, it was a case of wilful default and the SBP was the competent forum to initiate proceedings against his client, but NAB took over the case, started a solo flight and proceeded in the matter on its own in violation of relevant financial laws.
Providing details of the matter, the counsel pointed out that on Oct 30, 2009 when M/s Parthenon Private Limited secured the loan, President Zardari was not the director of the company, but was just a shareholder of M/s Park Lane. He said the board of directors of the company had accepted the resignation of Mr Zardari, but it could not communicate the matter to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) in time.
When the judge inquired as to why M/s Park Lane mortgaged its properties when M/s Parthenon was securing the loan, Mr Naek replied that they were in a sort of partnership and the former had offered a plot to the latter for the construction of a building, a joint venture.
He said the NBP credit committee had approved the loan for M/s Parthenon, but the anti-graft watchdog did not implicate even a single official of the NBP in the reference. Instead those who might be an accused in the case had been listed as prosecution witnesses, the counsel alleged.
The court adjourned further proceeding in the Park Lane reference till August 7.
Meanwhile, Judge Azam Khan of the accountability court accepted applications of Mr Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur seeking exemption from personal appearance in money laundering case for Wednesday.
The court then deferred the indictment of the siblings and other suspects, including Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed and Hussain Lawai, in the case till August 7.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2020