Pakistan

Dar graft hearing adjourned again in absence of defendant’s lead counsel

finance minister

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court on Wednesday (today) has to adjourn the hearing of a graft reference against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar as the defendant’s counsel Khawaja Harris could not ensure his presence. 

As the hearing began, Ishaq Dar’s legal team apprised the judge that their lead counsel Khawaja Harris is currently out of country and hence he would not be available during the court proceedings today.

To which, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor asserted that the finance minister’s counsel was not committed to the case.

In response to the prosecutor’s assertion, Dar’s junior counsel pleaded the judge to have the witnesses’ statements recorded in absence of Harris.

Taking a 15-minute recess, the judge queried the Dar’s legal team about Khawaja Harri’s return to the country.

The legal team informed the judge that Harris is likely to return to the country either on Oct 23 or 24.

In response, the anti-graft watchdog prosecutor contended that Harris would only ensure his presence once the suspect was put behind bars.

The judge then adjourned the proceedings until October 23 despite the defendant’s legal team appealed to resume the hearing on Oct 25.

Two more prosecution witnesses, Masood Ghani of Habib Bank Limited and Abdul Rehman Gondal of Allied Bank were likely to record their statements today.

Earlier, Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir had recorded the statements of Ishtiaq Ali of Bank Alfalah, Shahid Aziz of National Investment Trust, and Tariq Javed of Al Baraka Bank.

NAB Reference

According to the NAB reference, Dar had acquired assets and pecuniary interests/ resources in his name or in the name of his dependents of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million as per the investigation conducted so far.

The assets are disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for.

Oct 16 hearing

The court had rejected Dar’s plea, requesting the judge to grant him an exemption from appearing before the court for he wants to concentrate on his ministerial duties.

Dar’s application was filed through junior lawyer Kauseen Faisal Mufti.

Out of total 28 prosecution witnesses, the court has so far recorded the statements of three witnesses.

Khawaja Harris, the counsel for Ishaq Dar, cross-examined the NAB witness who had earlier recorded their statements.

Harris accused NAB witness Tariq Javed of Al Baraka Bank of lying in the court during the cross-examination.

Prior to Oct 16 hearing, Al-Baraka Bank Senior Vice President Tariq Javed and National Investment Trust (NIT)’s Shahid Aziz had testified against the finance minister.

Aziz said that the minister had invested Rs120 million in the NIT in 2015 but withdrew the amount after the Supreme Court took up the Panama Papers case in January 2017.  Javed also got his statement recorded and provided details of Dar’s five accounts, belonging to two of his companies and his wife.

At the outset, the court had adjourned the hearing till 12 noon due to absence of Dar’s lawyer.

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