ISLAMABAD: In connection with his alleged participation in a false account case, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has allowed former Sindh Bank president Bilal Sheikh to withdraw Rs95,000 from his account confiscated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)
IHC Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Ghulam Azam Qambrani heard the petition filed by Mr Sheikh.
In relation to a false account scam relating to imprudent loans to Omni Group of Firms, an investigation was launched against him by NAB.
The complainant, according to the petition, was also a member of the bank’s board of directors and joined the inquiry and appeared before the investigation officer. In June, 2019, the inquiry was turned into an investigation. Subsequently, on July 10, 2019, the petitioner was arrested but released on bail in Dec 2019.
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Before the court, the petitioner’s lawyer admitted that NAB had added the money and bank accounts after implicating him throughout the event.
In order to explain that the letter sent to the court by NAB was in fact a note of warning that had the effect of freezing accounts under section 12 of the NAB ordinance, the complainant placed an application before the accountability court.
The accountability court ruled that, under section 23, the letter was merely a note of warning and was not a freezing order. Another request was submitted by the petitioner requesting permission to deduct Rs950,000 a month as monthly expenses, but was disposed of on Oct 23, 2019 with permission to withdraw only Rs95,000 from the petitioner.
This order was questioned by NAB at the IHC.
Before the ruling, the petitioner’s lawyer pleaded that NAB has no power to give banks letters telling them to suspend his client’s accounts.
It was argued that the object of freezing the account was to avoid the selling of properties purchased from embezzled/ill-gotten funds so that the sums can be retrieved from the perpetrator if proven guilty, which is not the case in the present case as the matter is still under investigation.
“The court noted: “When it comes to any accused person’s identified properties, NAB conveniently avoids giving directions pursuant to Section 12 [concerning property caution] ibid and merely relies on Section 23 of the Ordinance and intimates relevant authority to signify ‘caution’ on the same. This NAB procedure seems to be in excess of constitutional provisions which should be stopped. Whenever NAB wants property to be frozen, it should pass such an order specifically through the chairman of NAB and have it validated by the accountability court concerned.
It added: “Although the spirit of the National Accountability Ordinance is that the NAB must conduct and conclude the investigation or investigation expeditiously and that the trial must also be concluded within 30 days, this is hardly ever the case.” The investigation/investigation lasts for years, the court order said, and even proceedings are not completed within the stipulated constitutional duration.
In such a case, the blocking of a convicted person’s bank account(s) would be equal to depriving him of his legal means of living. It should never be the spirit of law that a person facing an investigation or inquiry is unable to remove day-to-day activities from his or her bank account(s) and the position alluded to extends for years due to the investigating agency’s delay.
Also in the present case, the investigation/inquiry has been pending since April 2019, and the petitioners’ properties were placed under caution in July 2019. He finds it difficult to survive because he is unable to withdraw a single rupee from the banks because of the letters written by NAB to the banks where the petitioner was keeping his accounts, the IHC order continued.
The IHC subsequently upheld the accountability court’s order and allowed Mr Sheikh to deduct Rs95,000 from bank accounts every month.