A special court in Islamabad granted former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan interim bail till Oct 31 in a case registered against him and other party leaders by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in connection with their party allegedly receiving prohibited funding.
Special Judge Raja Asif Mehmood heard the petition, which was filed earlier today. The court directed Imran to submit a bail bond of Rs100,000.
In the petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Imran stated that since his political rivals could not find any charge of corruption against him, the "investigating agency in questionable exercise and abuse of its powers has made hectic efforts to register false and fabricated case against the petitioner based on a serious allegation".
Last month, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had issued its verdict in the prohibited funding case — previously referred to as the foreign funding case — against the PTI, which stated that the party did indeed receive prohibited funding.
In the verdict, the commission noted that the party “knowingly and willfully” received funding from Wootton Cricket Limited, operated by business tycoon Arif Naqvi. The party was a “willing recipient” of prohibited money of $2,121,500, it said.
The ECP said that the party “knowingly and willfully” also received donations from Bristol Engineering Services (a UAE-based company), E-Planet Trustees (a Cayman Islands private registered company), SS Marketing Manchester (a UK-based private company), PTI USA LLC-6160 and PTI USA LLC-5975 which were “hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws”.
The PTI, however, claims that all money it received was actually donations from Pakistanis living abroad and did not fall under the premise of illegal funding.
Subsequently, the FIA registered a case naming Imran, Sardar Azhar Tariq Khan, Saifullah Khan Nyazee, Syed Yunus Ali Raza, Aamer Mehmood Kiani, Tariq Rahim Sheikh, Tariq Shafi, Faisal Maqbool Shaikh, Hamid Zaman and Manzoor Ahmad Chaudhary as signatories/beneficiaries of the PTI account in question.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had granted the PTI chairman protective bail in the case till October 18 (tomorrow). In the order, the IHC had said, "the petitioner may approach the court of learned special judge in order to avail remedies provided under the law."
In the petition filed today, Imran argued that "not a single penny was received or withdrawn by [him] in his 'personal bank account' and neither does the FIR disclose any 'personal gain'."
"Hence, no scheduled offence had been made out and the FIA, in sheer haste, has abused its authority. Such repeated nomination of the petitioner in various FIRs only reaffirms the inclination of 'state functionaries' towards exercise of authority in achieving undue and unlawful advantages."
The petition stated that the allegations in the FIR were based on assumptions and conclusions and criminal proceedings were started against Imran without any investigation. While the FIA had stated the transactions through the account were proceeds of crime, it had "nothing" to establish it, the petition said.
"Another prime aspect is the absence of any action, or conduction of enquiry, by the respondent (FIA), against Arif Masood Naqvi. Such ignorance and silence of respondents towards this alleged crime for a considerable time period of eight years, coupled with the registration of several FIRs, tantamount to malafide intentions."
The petition also stated that the party had filed an appeal against the ECP verdict in the IHC and the matter was sub-judice.
"The bare perusal of the FIR reveals that the petitioner (Imran) is absolutely innocent and has committed no criminal offence, hence qualifying the petitioner for bail until the matter is further probed."
During the hearing today, Imran's lawyer, Salman Safdar, informed the court that 10 people were nominated in the FIR. "The IHC has to determine the jurisdiction."
At this, the judge asked about the charges levelled in the FIR, observing that it would come under the court's jurisdiction if the matter was related to a government employee. "This court does not jurisdiction [in a case] related to a banker."
Judge Mehmood said he was granting interim bail on the "IHC's directions". He also instructed Imran's counsel to convince the court regarding jurisdiction at the next date of hearing.
The FIR over alleged false affidavits, lodged by the FIA in Islamabad, includes sections 420, 468, 471, 477-A, and 109 read with sections 5 and 23 of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act 1947.
According to the FIR, the Abraaj owner transferred $2,121,500 of his "ill-gotten" money to a PTI account in the UBL. The signatories of the UBL account included Imran Khan, Saifullah Nyazee among other PTI leaders.
“The purpose stated in the swift messages of the transactions is ‘agreed transfer’ to disguise the true nature, origin, location, movement and ownership of these funds. Arif Masood Naqvi is also the founder/owner of Abraaj Group, UAE, which collapsed in 2018. Arif Masood Naqvi lied about the performance of Abraaj’s funds by inflating their value,” the complaint added.
“Therefore, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) imposed penalties on two Abraaj Group companies for carrying out un-authorised activities in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and misusing investors’ money. The regulator imposed penalties amounting to $299.30 million on Abraaj Investment Management Limited and Abraaj Capital respectively.
“PTI submitted an affidavit of Arif Masood Naqvi before the Election Commission of Pakistan stating therein that all the amounts collected in the accounts of WCL were submitted into PTI’s account in Pakistan. This affidavit has been proved to be false/forged as two more transactions were also made from WCL to two different accounts in Pakistan in May 2013.”
Earlier this month, two of the accused — Saifullah Khan Nyazee and Hamid Zaman — were taken into “protective custody” by the FIA.