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February 9, 2021

NAB’s questions and Khawaja Asif’s responses

February 9, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has claimed that former foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif accumulated huge foreign remittances without explaining his source of income. But Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz's (PML-N) stalwart vehemently denied the allegations.

As the anti-graft body’s inquiry moves ahead, Geo News evaluated NAB team’s questionnaire, courts’ record and Asif's assets declarations he has been submitting before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) since 2012-13.

Perusal of the available official record that Geo News went through showed that the NAB team was eagerly looking for a reply from Asif's overseas employers that might give a new turn to Khawaja Asif's case. NAB officials familiar with the latest development revealed that they were awaiting the UAE authorities' reply. NAB's questionnaire served on Khawaja Asif looks like investigators were looking for "something big and new" within what Asif either submitted before the court or the ECP.

The NAB claimed that the "accused Khawaja Asif has been operating a benami firm Tariq Mir and Company in the name of his low wage employee Tariq Mir". Khawaja Asif in his reply stated that he had already declared this business with the ECP and FBR since 2009-10. The NAB claimed that "more than Rs400m was deposited in cash in the bank account of Tariq Mir and Company without having any plausible source of funds." Asif told the NAB that he received an amount of around Rs92m as remittances from his employer from 2002 to 2018. Asif further told NAB that he had shares worth Rs113m in M/s Tariq Mir and Company with a liability of Rs185m in 2014. He told the investigators that he had assets of Rs181m with Rs82m liability in 2016 and assets worth Rs270m with liability of Rs127m in 2017.

The NAB investigation further stated that "accused claimed to have received Rs130m approximately as salary income from an employment in UAE with a company named M/s IMECO, however, he failed to provide any documentary evidence for receipt of said salary which shows that a fake source of income was created by him to justify his alleged ill-gotten assets." On Asif's foreign employment issue, NAB alleged that "his [Asif] case of foreign employment as federal minister was subject matter in proceedings before superior courts, whereby it was held that there was no conflict of interest in holding private/foreign jobs."

Khawaja Asif informed the LHC in 2018 that he got “To Whom It May Concern” from his UAE employer which read, “We hereby confirm that Khawaja Asif has been the legal adviser private law for the company. Mr. Asif was paid a fee for his services as per the understanding of the company and himself. A representative of the company is willing to come and appear before any court in Pakistan to confirm the facts.” Geo News sought confirmation of this letter from his employer, IMECO UAE, but the firm's response was awaited till the filing of this story.

In response to NAB's question pertaining to his overseas jobs which investigators claimed were on papers only, Asif informed the anti-graft body that he had started a job with the Bank of Dubai (UAE) in 1979. He joined the Bank of Oman, Dubai, in 1980 and then worked with Bank of Credit and Commerce, Dubai, in 1983. Asif said that he started work with Bank of GEDIT & Commerce Emirates/Union National Bank, Abu Dhabi, in 1984 and continued his job till he became a member of Senate of Pakistan by 1991. On a NAB's question regarding his worth of investment/shares/business, Asif stated that the "Market value of CDC account with JS Global Capital Ltd as on 2018 was Rs10,361,011, the net worth share value in Erasmus Pvt Ltd as on June 30, 2018 was Rs875,7842 and no bank loan outstanding as of June, 2018." He further told the investigators that he “held 10% shares worth $25,000 in Zen Japanese Restaurant from 1990 till 2012, investment was made while I was still employed in a bank abroad." On his accounts he maintained in the US and UAE, Asif told the investigation team that "[I maintained] self account from 1984-2018 in UAE (closed). [It] was opened as an employee of the bank. His wife and daughter maintain a joint account of (USD8,668) in the US. My children are not dependents."

When asked by NAB how much loan he has acquired from Arshad Javeid Warraich, Asif stated, "My family paid off loans to Arshad Javaid Waraich. Loans were for self no interest Rs24,720,360 and for family loans of Rs20,000,000."

About his other assets, Asif told NAB that "I also own one plot in DHA Phase-V, Lahore. The residential house at Phase-II, DHA Lahore, which was built in 1997-1998 was bought for Rs1,600,000 in 1994 and transferred to wife and a three-bed apartment on Constitution Avenue, Islamabad, worth Rs15,000,000 which was purchased out of a declared source of my business of rice export under the name and style M/s Tariq Mir & Co. This flat was gifted to my son, Khawaja Asad on January 25, 2016. Hence the source and money trail of this flat is duly documented and properly explained and also declared in my Assets and Liabilities declaration for the year 2014 to 2016." He also informed the NAB that "I had 10% shares in Zen Restaurant at UAE in 1991 while in Abu Dhabi."

Asif's declarations with the ECP revealed that his total assets were of Rs187m in 2013-14. Net worth of his total assets remained Rs212m in 2014-15. He showed shares worth Rs1m in M/s AAA and F Trading Corporation business and shares of Rs1m in M/s The law College and Rs 2m shares of wife in M/s Erasmus Pvt Ltd. in 2014. He had total assets worth Rs232m in 2015-16 and Rs252m with new investments of Rs3m in PTCL, KESC, M/s AAA and F. Traders Sialkot and M/s Erasmus Pvt. Ltd., Sialkot in 2016-17. He had assets worth Rs270m with additional investments of Rs13 million in stocks like JS Global Capital Ltd and Erasmus in 2017-18 and Rs129m in 2018-19.

The NAB spokesperson says, “Accountability Court Lahore had granted remand of Khawaja Asif into NAB custody. Since inquiry proceedings are ongoing, therefore, any information related to the case of Khawaja Asif during the remand period can affect the official proceedings. NAB after expiry of remand period, will present him before the respected accountability court Lahore where NAB will submit its point of view in the court as per law. Media is requested to kindly avoid any speculations related to the case.”