PESHAWAR: An accountability court here on Friday returned a Rs28.39 million fraud reference against a private bank’s employees to the National Accountability Bureau over lack of jurisdiction following the last month’s changes to the relevant law.

Judge Mohammad Younas directed the NAB to take up the matter with the relevant forum for action.

The court ruled that under Section 5(O) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO),misappropriation of less than Rs500 million by the accused, who were employees of the privately-owned Bank Al-Baraka Limited, didn’t constitute an offence under the ordinance amended last month.

It added that for the purpose of jurisdiction, such allegations couldn’t be investigated by the NAB nor could the references on them be heard by the accountability courts.

Directs anti-graft watchdog to take matter to relevant forum for action

The court observed that a similar reference was also hit by the National Accountability (Amendments) Act, 2022, and National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act 2022, which declared that those amendments should be deemed to have taken effect from the day of the NAO’s promulgation.

The judge issued the order while deciding two applications filed by the accused under Section 265-K of the Code of Criminal Procedure for acquittal on the basis of the amendments to the NAO.

The prime accused in the reference was Bank Al-Baraka Limited former branch manager Raheel Sabir Jadoon, while the others included manager (operations) Mohammad Bilal, credit manager Raza Shah, customer service officer Shazia Tanveer, IT coordinator Farhan Ahmad and Grade-I officer Uzma Saeed Hashmi, who is at large.

The judge didn’t accept the accused’s acquittal plea declaring that Section 265-K of the CrPC, which empowers a court to acquit the accused at any stage of the trial, isn’t applicable in the case over a lack of jurisdiction.

He, however, observed that in the ‘larger interest of justice’, the reference should be returned to the NAB so that it could be taken up with the relevant forum to save the time of the court and those related to the case.

Defence counsel Zulfiqar Ahmad contended that amendments were made to the accountability law, including Section 5(O), last month through the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act, 2022.

He said the offence of corruption and corrupt practices was defined as the embezzlement of cash not less than Rs500 million.

Mr Ahmad said as allegations against the petitioners were no longer an offence under the NAO, they were entitled to be acquitted by the court.

The reference was filed against the six accused by the NAB in 2014.

The anti-graft watchdog alleged that the accused had opened a fake Pakistani rupee bank account in the name of Dr Abdul Jamil Khan and by using the forged fund transfer application (FTA) had fraudulently transferred $150,000 from the original US dollar account of Dr Abdul Jamil Khan.

Later, the accused allegedly withdrew and embezzled that amount by issuing a pay order and using a fake account by the name of Tariq Khan, who was the brother-in-law of prime accused Raheel Sabir. Also, $170,000 was withdrawn from the bank account of Dr Abdul Jamil through fake FTA.

The NAB alleged that prime accused Raheel Sabir, as an operation manager Bank Al-Baraka, Abbottabad, in connivance with the absconder, Uzma Saeed of the bank, had fraudulently withdrawn Rs11.422 million from the bank account of Nayyar Sultan Jadoon through nine illegal transactions with the help of fake FTA.

The prime accused later returned Rs10 million to Mr Jadoon’s bank account but the remaining Rs1.424 million remained outstanding against him.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2022

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