In custody of LEAs for 145 days, Dr Asim remanded for 10 more days
KARACHI: Former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain, who according to his lawyers has been in the custody of law enforcement agencies for the past 145 days since his arrest in August last year, was on Monday remanded in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau for another 10 days.
The administrative judge of the accountability courts, Saad Qureshi, extended the physical remand of Dr Asim for a fourth time till Jan 27.
The former petroleum minister, a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari, is facing an inquiry involving an amount of Rs13 billion into alleged misuse of authority in fraudulent allotment of plots and encroachment of state land for Dr Ziauddin Hospital/Trust, illegal gains, kickbacks and commission through fertilizer cartel for illegal curtailment of gas for exploitative price hike and black-marketing, fraud with the public in the name of charity hospital and money-laundering.
Dr Asim has been in the custody of NAB since Dec 11, 2015. On Monday, after the end of his last remand, the anti-corruption body produced him in court and the investigation officer, Zameer Abbasi, sought another 15-day extension in his remand for collection of more evidence and arrest of absconders.
The defence lawyers, Amir Raza Naqvi and Anwar Mansoor Khan, opposed the NAB request and submitted that there was no substance when NAB arrested their client and now the IO was manufacturing evidence.
They added that the arrest without substance was illegal and said that they had already moved an application in this regard and requested the court to pass an order on it.
The counsel repeatedly said in court they were helpless since Article 10 of the Constitution (Safeguards as to arrest and detention) was being violated as their client had been in the custody of various law enforcement agencies for more than 145 days following his arrest in August 2015.
They blamed NAB for making the issue political and a media trial of Dr Asim and maintained that there was no evidence and everything was based on assumptions.
They argued that during the last hearing the IO submitted that 80 per cent investigations were complete, but after getting a two-week remand he was still seeking Dr Asim’s custody to conclude it.
NAB also submitted the medical reports of Dr Asim and the opinion of his psychiatrist, Dr S. Haroon Ahmed, who was asked on a previous hearing to examine the former minister and give his opinion about his health.
The defence lawyers also expressed apprehensions over the mental health of the suspect.
NAB deputy prosecutor general Amjad Ali Shah submitted that they were seeking further extension in accordance with the law, adding that it was justified since they had made developments in the investigation conducted so far.
After hearing arguments and examining the documents, Judge Saad Qureshi remanded Dr Asim in the custody of NAB till Jan 27.
The court also directed NAB to take him to the director of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for a check-up and get him admitted him if so advised by the official concerned.
On Aug 26, 2015, the Rangers picked up Dr Asim and later placed him under three-month preventive detention for inquiry. He is also facing a case before an antiterrorism court for allegedly treating and harbouring terrorists at the North Nazimabad and Clifton branches of his hospital at the behest of certain politicians.
73pc of Docks patients referred to Ziauddin hospitals
At the outset of the Monday hearing, the NAB IO submitted a progress report stating that the NAB recorded statements of five witnesses and examined two more suspects and seized evidence from the Karachi Docks Labour Board (KDLB), Ziauddin Hospital and Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) that has recently been renamed as the Pakistan Stock Exchange.
The report said that the record of 56 government organisations on the panel of Dr Ziauddin Hospitals, owned by Dr Asim, was also examined and showed that in 1996 Dr Asim got hold of the KDLB hospital through bidding for provision of concessional treatment as an outsource facility for 45,000 workers at the rate of Rs4.26 per day for each worker.
However, the post-contract practice appeared murky as the KDLB hospital was turned into a business-generation outlet and around 73pc of patients were referred to the Ziauddin Hospitals, it added.
It further stated that the former general manager (finance) of the KDLB hospital was also examined and according to the billing record for the year 2009-2014 produced by him, around Rs150 million was charged from the labour board without any list or details of patients treated.
The report alleged that the KDLB was still being used illegally for exploitative billing for fraudulent profiteering only, adding that the then secretary of the KDLB, Safdar, now serving as the general manager (human resources) at the Ziauddin Hospitals, was also questioned and he confessed to having facilitated Dr Asim in taking control of the KDLB hospital.
He also admitted to the effect that its monthly billing was either fake or exaggerated and the KDLB hospital had been reduced to a referral facility for the Ziauddin Hospital, the IO claimed in the report.
2008 stock exchange crash
Furthermore, the NAB report maintained that more evidence seized from the Marri Gas, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and the KSE further corroborated the facts that Dr Asim was involved in wrongdoings there.
It added that under the garb of minimising loadshedding an exploitative diversion and curtailment of gas was caused and subsequently the fertilizer sector found an opportunity to illegally raise the prices of urea.
It said that since the urea pricing was the domain of ministry of industries and production, it was asked to provide the record.
Referring to an alleged disclosure of Dr Asim regarding his involvement in the 2008 crash of the KSE because of the right issue approved in favour of stockbroker Jahangir Siddiqui, the report stated that the evidence collected from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, KSE and Central Depository Company provided wider leads and needed to be further advanced through a separate case since there was an alleged gain of billion of rupees to the JS Global Capital Ltd and loss to state entities.
It further maintained that as per collected evidence from the KSE, the alleged scam revolved around manipulative and speculative trading besides inside trading with regard to buying and selling shares of JSCL, which after the issuance of right dipped from Rs470 per share to Rs4 within a shorter span after their sell. The record was called from the state entities concerned to calculate the loss, it added.
The NAB report further claimed that the anti-corruption body has seized irrefutable evidence regarding charges of money laundering while Dr Asim was also questioned about provision of fuel at gas price to the then Karachi Electric Supply Corporation in 2011 in order to curb loadshedding in Karachi and permission for new gas connection.
The IO showed the then group finance adviser of Ziauddin group of hospitals and now administrator of Ziauddin Medical Centre Dubai Abdul Hameed and Karachi Development Authority officer Syed Athar Hussain as absconders in the progress report. It said that since Hameed was in Dubai the cooperation of authorities concerned had been sought for his arrest through Interpol.
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