Monday April 15, 2024

Reference against JJVL owner and sons returned to NAB

Case was transferred from Hyderabad to accountability court in Karachi on orders of Sindh High Court (SHC)

By Yousuf Katpar
February 08, 2024
The headquarters of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Islamabad. —APP/File
The headquarters of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Islamabad. —APP/File

KARACHI: An accountability court has sent a graft reference against Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL) owner Iqbal Z Ahmed, his two sons and others back to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) owing to lack of jurisdiction.

Iqbal Z Ahmed, his sons Faseehuddin Ahmed and Raziuddin Ahmed, and other accused Asim Iftikhar, Salamat Ali, Qazi Humayun Fareed and Mohammad Ramazan were booked by the anti-graft watchdog in 2020 for their alleged involvement in laundering billions of rupees through corrupt practices. Sources close to Iqbal Z Ahmed said they have been declared innocent and the matter is now closed.

The case was transferred from Hyderabad to an accountability court in Karachi on the orders of the Sindh High Court (SHC). The accused submitted an application to Accountability Judge-IV Shahid Pervez Memon seeking the return of the reference to NAB for lack of jurisdiction.

The case is among the references that were restored to their original status in the wake of the Supreme Court’s September 15, 2023, judgement that struck down the amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

The judge noted that the accused were neither public office holders nor had they received any monetary gain, while there was no criminal breach of trust as defined under the Pakistan Penal Code’s Section 405, which deals with any property, including money or valuable security, entrusted to have by members of public at large.

“It is matter of record that there is no number of hundred per cent affectees who were cheated at the hands of the applicants/accused,” said the judge, recalling that NAB’s investigating officer had admitted in his reply that the accused were private persons.

He said that according to the application, there was no allegation in the interim and supplementary references filed by NAB that the transactions conducted by the accused or their companies were directly or indirectly connected to a public office holder, and that the funds, property or interest involved or belonged to the government.

“The NAB authorities in their reply have also referred to Section 4(4)(d) of the NAO, 1999, meaning thereby that they themselves admitted that this court has no jurisdiction to entertain the instant reference, and the judgement passed by the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan will not affect the case of the applicants/accused.”

In compliance with the SC’s judgement, he said, the NAB authorities “without scrutinising, returned the references, again submitted all the references before the courts concerned”.

The judge returned the reference to the NAB chairman with all the relevant documents for presenting them before the relevant court in accordance with the law.

He said the accused Iqbal Z Ahmed, Faseehuddin Ahmed, Raziuddin Ahmed, Asim Iftikhar, Salamat Ali, Qazi Humayun Fareed and Mohammad Ramazan would remain on bail until the matter is presented before the relevant court, and they would submit fresh bail pleas to it.

The counsel for the applicants had argued that the Hyderabad accountability court had dismissed their application seeking to return the reference to NAB on March 7, 2023.

The order was challenged in the SHC’s Hyderabad circuit bench, which then directed the trial court to return the reference to the NAB chief, he pointed out.

He said that on September 15, 2023, the SC struck down some sections of the National Accountability (Amendment) Act, 2022, and the Second Amendment Act, 2022, as a result of which the trial court restored the reference to its original status and issued notices to the accused.

The counsel contended that the top court had set aside the amendments pertaining to public office holders and public servants, as well as taken away NAB’s jurisdiction to handle corruption cases involving an amount lower than Rs500 million. “All the applicants/accused are private persons, and no public office holder is involved in this reference, nor any loss to the national exchequer has occurred,” said the counsel, pleading with the court to return the reference to the NAB chief for filing it before the forum concerned.