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Waqar Zaka declared absconder over absence from court: Magistrate says accused neither surrendered before his court nor obtained bail from any other competent court

By Yousuf Katpar
February 04, 2023

A court has declared television and social media personality Waqar Zaka an absconder over his perpetual absence from the trial proceedings in a cryptocurrency case.

Judicial Magistrate (East) Mukesh Kumar issued directives for initiating the process of proclamation and attachment of the property of the absconder.

As the case came up for hearing, Zaka’s lawyer Salahuddin Panhwar filed an application requesting the magistrate to condone his client’s absence from the court and grant him more time to assist it on the maintainability of the plea.

The magistrate observed that the counsel filed the application for condonation of the suspect’s absence for a third time in row. He said sufficient time had been granted to the lawyer to satisfy this court on the maintainability of the plea, but the lawyer didn’t assist the court and also Zaka had neither surrendered before the court nor obtained bail from any competent court. Therefore, the magistrate dismissed the present application along with two previous ones for being “meritless”.

The FIA investigating officer submitted a report stating that the non-bailable warrants issued by the court for the arrest of the suspect could not be served since his whereabouts were unknown.

After recording his statement, the magistrate declared Zaka absconder in the case. “The accused has hidden himself at an unknown place due to fear of his arrest and there is no immediate hope of his arrest in the near future.”

He directed the IO to initiate the proceedings of the fleeing suspect’s proclamation as absconder and attachment of his property under sections 87 and 88, respectively, of the Criminals Procedure Code (CrPC). The hearing was adjourned until March 2 when the IO is required to file a compliance report.

Earlier, the counsel had stated that Waqar Zaka was in New York in connection with a professional assignment and couldn’t appear before the court.

In December, the IO had filed a final charge sheet stating that Zaka was allegedly found involved in luring the public into dubious online ‘Initial Coin Offering/Crypt Currency Courses’ and using social media platforms to promote and advise the youth to invest in the speculative risk-based business despite the fact that it was prohibited by the State Bank of Pakistan.

He alleged that Zaka also charged money from people through social media for attending these courses, adding that he also introduced a dubious coin, ‘Tenup’, to tempt the public into joining his “fictitious business”.

The challan further stated that Zaka had allegedly used his salaried bank accounts for foreign remittances, suspicious transactions and raising funds.

The IO cited a private bank’s senior manager for remittances, Muhammad Aman, saying that foreign remittances were received into an account with the title of Waqar Zaka seventeen times, including 12 from a US-based company, and eventually the account was closed after he failed to provide any justification for the remittances having been credited into a salaried account. The foreign remittances were also received in his salaried account at another bank, added the challan.

During the investigation, the IO mentioned that he wrote a letter to the bank’s head of compliance to provide the details of whether the alleged transactions were reported to the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) or otherwise and in response to his letter, bank officials said three suspicious transaction reports (STRs) had been filed with the unit in 2018, 2019 and 2021 against Zaka.

“This shows that accused Waqar Zaka used his salaried account for foreign remittances and made suspicious transactions, for which he could not provide any justification to the bank concerned and eventually three STRs were reported to the Financial Monitoring Unit, State Bank of Pakistan,” claimed the IO.

The IO stated that Zaka had allegedly committed offences punishable under sections 13 (making, obtaining or supplying device for use in offence) and 14 (unathourised use of identity information) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, read with sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in a very tactful and technical manner.

However, the IO stated that no evidence had been found regarding sections 3 and 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2020.