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January 1, 2018

Interpol rejects Pak request to arrest ETPB’s ex-chief


January 1, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Exactly one year ago, the Pakistan embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) planned to hire a Middle East-based law firm at a heavy fee for extradition of former Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) chairman Syed Asif Hashmi to Pakistan from Dubai.

An estimated Rs12 million was spent on legal minds and investigators pleaded the case for four and a half years at national and international forums despite the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) findings submitted to a trial court that the agency had already made all recoveries in this case.

The Pakistan mission in the UAE and a law firm had agreed upon estimated 0.4 million dirham (Rs11.4 million) that is too high compared with other law firms' fees,” revealed senior officials familiar with the latest updates in the said case.

The years-long legal battle between Mr Hashmi and FIA ended up with these words: “The general secretariat of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) hereby certifies that, as of today [December 8, 2017] Mr Hashmi Syed Asif Akhtar, born on Sep 22, 1953, is not subject to an Interpol’s red notice or diffusion and is not known in Interpol databases. Interpol is aware that in the past the individual was subject of data recorded in Interpol’s database, yet the data was later cancelled.”

Office of Legal Affairs General Secretariat ICPO-INTERPOL informed the British Law Company, a firm hired by Mr Hashmi earlier this month. “Firm will find enclosed the decision of the commission concerning your client [Hashmi] and an official letter from the Interpol general secretariat, certifying that your client [Hashmi] not subject to in Interpol red notice or diffusion and that he is not known to its databases. To undertake any measures you deemed appropriate from the follow-up of your client’s [Hashmi] case at national level, we invite you to contact the relevant national authorities,” further revealed the continued communication.

“It’s very strange to me why our embassy was willing to pay such a huge amount for extradition of a person whose case has almost been concluded in Pakistan," said the official who has now been assigned by the current ETPB Chairman Siddiqul Farooq to pursue this case with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Mr Farooq has been vigorously pursuing the case against his predecessor but despite all efforts in the last two years investigators failed to satisfy the authorities of the Middle Eastern country for Mr Hashmi's extradition, informed officials said.

“It has been transpired that Islamabad’s request [for Hashmi's extradition] does not include order of the courts; Pakistan's embassy is requested to remove the discrepancies — also provide the court order for his repatriation,” a diplomat quoted a gist of the latest letter sent by the ministry of the Middle Eastern country to Islamabad.

Jamil Ahmad Khan, FIA investigator, revealed in his final report, “the legal opinion/guidance is requested to be obtained in this regard for provision of proclamation order against accused U/S 87, 204 Cr.Pc by the court to be published in the newspapers for appearance before the court within one month.” But it could not be done successfully before Sep 19, 2014.

Siddiqul Farooq in his official letter on August 10, 2016 to then Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs said, “The Dubai authorities asked for a judicial request for extradition. This has not been demanded in any earlier cases in which extradition has been successfully processed before even from UAE. It is further recommended that Foreign Office may be requested to hire a local counsel/depute officers who are well conversant with legal acts to pursue this case before the public prosecution Dubai, so that such irrelevant all objections in this regard may be answered.”

The FIA despite efforts made by Siddiqul Farooq failed to fulfill these requirements and finally Interpol made it clear that Mr Hashmi is not on their database, senior officials revealed.

Pakistan's embassy, the legal minds, ETPB and FIA were trying to conceal facts by parrying all the questions Geo News had posed to them. An official email sent was responded by an embassy official: “Ministry of Interior is an appropriate forum to respond to all the queries including issue of law firm’s services.”

Neither Director General FIA nor FIA Interpol branch Islamabad responded to this correspondent’s calls and messages. The said law firm and ministry of interior too did not offer comments on this case despite repeated attempts by the Geo News. Documents exclusively obtained from the Pakistan embassy, the National Accountability Bureau, FIA and the Foreign Office of Pakistan revealed that all recoveries worth around Rs2 billion have been made in the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) case and the final challan was also submitted to the court.

“Investigation into Mr Hashmi’s case concluded. Final challan submitted to the court in this case — 100% recoveries have been made,” confirmed FIA investigation officer Jamil Khan Mayo.

The NAB and FIA, however, wanted to quiz former chairman of the ETPB Asif Hashmi in a number of inquiries being initiated against him after securing his custody from the Interpol. Mr Hashmi said that he had won his case from Dubai court first and recently Interpol cleared his name. He said he even did not know why the FIA officials wanted to quiz him after he had satisfied the courts. In Pakistan, Asif Hashmi is facing trial in the NAB court for his alleged corruption.