Finance Minister Ishaq Dar appeared before an accountability court in Islamabad on Thursday as trial into National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) graft case against him resumed.
The court had indicted Dar last month in a reference pertaining to his owning “assets beyond his known sources of income”.
As the hearing began on Thursday, NAB presented before the court two witnesses who testified against the finance minister. The witnesses are Al-Baraka Bank Senior Vice-President Tariq Javed and Shahid Aziz of the National Investment Trust (NIT).
In his testimony, Aziz informed the court that Dar had invested Rs120 million as finance minister in 2015, but he withdrew this money from the trust after the Panama Papers case started in January 2017. NIT is the first asset management company of Pakistan that was formed in 1962, according to its website.
Javed of Al-Baraka Bank informed the court that Dar opened an account in the bank’s Lahore branch in 1991. He said the minister’s wife, Tabassum Ishaq Dar, too holds an account in the bank and owns a company named HDS Securities Private Limited.
Dar’s lawyer Khawaja Haris is cross-examining the witnesses and questioning whether the documents produced by them are legitimate. The witnesses have claimed that all documents submitted by them against Dar are genuine and attested.
At the last hearing on October 4, Dar’s lawyer had raised questions regarding the relevance of the first prosecution witness and objected to the admissibility of evidence procured from the witness by NAB.
The counsel made the objections after Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir recorded the statement of Bank Al-Falah Manager Operations Ishtiaq Ali, in whose branch Dar held a personal and company account until 2006.
NAB Special Prosecutor Imran Shafiq produced the witness and exhibited the relevant documents in the assets reference against Dar, which defense counsel Khawaja Haris described as “completely irrelevant”.
Ali then told the court that his bank had received three letters from NAB on August 16, 2017, requiring details of Ishaq Dar’s bank accounts. In compliance, the bank’s account manager submitted documents pertaining to a company named HDS Securities Pvt Ltd on August 27 and 28.
He said the last transaction from the company’s account was made on July 25, 2005, while the account was formally closed on February 2, 2016.
During cross-examination, Advocate Haris pointed out that NAB did not summon the record related to HDS Securities. He also pointed out that the original documents were somewhat different from the certified copies the bank had provided to the prosecution, saying that the photocopies did not reflect the official bank stamp.
During cross-questioning, the witness admitted that he did not prepare these documents, nor was he their author. He also could not produce any evidence to show whether he was the custodian of the warehouse where the bank kept such documentation.
Advocate Haris concluded the cross-examination saying: “the evidence produced by the witness is inadmissible, since none of the documents were prepared or executed by the witness”.
Assets beyond known income
On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one against Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.
In its reference against the finance minister, NAB has alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx)”.
The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.