NAB opposes transfer of cases against Zardari to Karachi

Published June 16, 2021
Former president Asif Ali Zardari arrives in a court for a hearing. — AP/File
Former president Asif Ali Zardari arrives in a court for a hearing. — AP/File

ISLSMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has told the Supreme Court that it has entered into plea bargain or pardon agreements with several accused in the fake accounts case for the surrender of illegal benefits worth Rs33.2 billion.

NAB has explained that the case is related to complicated financial crimes involving more than 10,000 banking transactions routed through various fake/benami accounts to conceal the origin of funds, aimed at breaking the money trail.

NAB has furnished a report before the Supreme Court in a case relating to appeals by PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari seeking transfer of corruption references against him to any accountability court in Karachi from Islamabad.

Headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, a three-judge Supreme Court bench is hearing the set of four appeals in which the petitioner has pleaded that the references are causing discomfort to him as he is suffering from several ailments and is currently on bail on medical grounds.

The report says in view of the Jan 7, 2019 Supreme Court order, the director general of NAB Rawalpindi was nominated to supervise the investigations and a team of experience and competent investigators was constituted to conduct an inquiry and file references. In spite of intricate financial transactions, the investigation team successfully conducted the inquiry and so far 14 references have been filed in the accountability court. Charges have been framed against the accused whereas the prosecution witnesses had been produced in the court without any delay on part of the bureau.

When the trial courts have already taken cognizance of the references and when the accused (Asif Zardari) also has exemptions from personal appearance, mere convenience of the accused cannot be termed a valid and cogent reason or ground for the transfer of the references from Islamabad to Karachi, the report says.

Additionally, it is the defence counsel who is seeking adjournments from the trial court to delay the proceedings and not even a single adjournment has been sought by NAB, the report says. The bureau has no objection if the Supreme Court fixes a time to conclude the trial proceedings. At the same time the defence counsel should be directed not to seek unnecessary adjournments during the trial proceedings.

In addition to the filing of the references, due to successful inquiries/investigations by NAB, the report says, a number of accused persons have entered into plea bargain or sought pardon and agreed to surrender the illegal benefits availed by them either in the form of cash and surrendering the lands illegally allotted to them.

The report explains that the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 is a special law and its each and every provision is required to be strictly construed. Therefore, nothing could be deleted from the ordinance. Section 16(a) of the ordinance relates to the transfer of cases and details the reasons for the transfer of cases.

There is no provision in the law of re-transfer of the references, the report says, adding that once the power of transfer is exercised and matter transferred to a particular court, the NAB chairman and the court become functus officio meaning thereby that they have no power to re-transfer the case.

Thus the matter has attained finality and therefore the appeals are not maintainable, NAB maintains, adding that the Supreme Court being the highest court of the country has ordered the transfer of these proceedings (from an accountability court in Karachi to Islamabad) and once these proceedings were transferred, the matter has attained finality.

Moreover, similar matter has already been agitated before different judicial forums, therefore it cannot now be re-agitated, the report contends.

Besides, it says, the references were transferred to Islamabad in pursuance of the directives passed by the Supreme Court therefore the grounds agitated by the petitioner are not sustainable being in violation of the court orders.

Moved through senior lawyer Farooq H. Naek, the appeals have pleaded that hundreds of cases are being tried before the accountability courts in Karachi but the trial of the applicant in Islamabad shows bias to the applicant and therefore the transfer of the references to Karachi would be in harmony with Article 25 of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, EOS, June 16th, 2021

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