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IHC approves Imran Khan’s bail in £190m corruption case

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday approved PTI founder Imran Khan’s bail application in the 190 million pound corruption case.

A two-member bench, comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, had reserved the verdict a day ago after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecution team and Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, the counsel for Imran, concluded their arguments.

The court set Imran’s bail at Rs1 million today but he will not be released from prison as he is still serving out his sentences in the cipher and the iddat cases. His sentences in two separate Toshakhana cases were suspended by the IHC.

In his concluding arguments in Tuesday’s court hearing, NAB Special Prosecutor Amjad Pervaiz had informed the court that the trial of the ex-premier and his spouse was about to conclude.

He said that out of 59 prosecution witnesses, 30 have testified so far, and the prosecution would cut the number of rem­a­ining witnesses by 10 to 15 and produce the rest for recording statements. He cited a Supreme Court judgement where bail petitions were turned down in such situations.

According to the court order issued today, the investigation in the matter was complete and the “continued incarceration” of the petitioner, Imran, would not serve any purpose.

It said that the prosecution had expressed apprehension that Imran might tamper with the record or influence the trial being a political person, however, there was nothing on record which justified the referred apprehension.

“The instant petition is allowed and petitioner is admitted to bail after arrest in the afore-mentioned reference subject to furnishing bail bonds in the sum of Rs1m,” it said.

It added that the observations made were tentative and would not prejudice the trial court while deciding the reference against Imran.

Imran and his wife Bushra Bibi were indicted in the case by a Rawalpindi accountability court in February.

In December, NAB had filed a corruption reference against Imran and seven others, including his wife, in connection with the Al-Qadir University.

The case alleges that Imran and Bushra Bibi obtained billions of rupees and land worth hundreds of kanals from Bahria Town Ltd for legalising Rs50 billion that was identified and returned to the country by the UK during the previous PTI government.

The reference filed by NAB alleged that Imran, who is currently in jail, played a “pivotal role in the illicit transfer of funds meant for the state of Pakistan into an account designated for the payment of land by Bahria Town, Karachi”. It also claimed that despite being given multiple opportunities to justify and provide information, the accused deliberately, with mala fide intention, refused to give information on one pretext or another.

Property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain and his son Ahmed Ali Riaz, Mirza Shehzad Akbar, and Zulfi Buk­hari are also among the suspects in this reference, but instead of joining the investigation and subsequent court proceedings, they absconded and were subsequently dec­lared proclaimed offenders (PO).

Farhat Shahzadi, a close friend of Imran’s spouse, and Ziaul Mustafa Nasim, a legal expert for the PTI government’s Assets Recovery Unit, were also declared POs. Subsequently, the properties of all six accused had been frozen.

Judge Mohammad Bashir was supposed to indict the ex-premier and former first lady on January 26 but the indictment was deferred to January 30. It was then scheduled for February 10 but was again deferred till February 27.

NAB reference

The reference said the “accused […] were given multiple opportunities to justify and provide information, but they deliberately, with malafide intention, refused to provide the information on one or the other pretext.

“Furthermore, it is established through their responses that they have nothing in their defence to rebut the above-mentioned allegations. Thus, they all have committed an offence” under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).

It added that the investigation proceedings and findings so far “established that accused persons in connivance with each other have committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practices” as defined under the NAO.

The reference said Imran played a “pivotal role” in the illicit transfer of funds which were meant for the state which ultimately benefited Riaz.

Akbar, a former special assistant to the premier and Asset Recovery Unit chief, played a “crucial role” in the “illegal design of the funds” which were meant for the state, the reference said.

Malik, the reference said, had “actively aided, abetted and assisted and acted in conspiracy” with the other respondents for the diversion of funds earmarked for the state.

Bushra Bibi and Shahzadi also played a “significant” and “crucial” role in the “illegal activities”, the latter also a “front woman” for Imran and his wife, it said.

The reference said that it was “just and proper” to proceed against the eight suspects as there was “sufficient incriminating evidence” available to justify the reference.

It pleaded that the eight suspects be tried and punished in accordance with the law by the court or any other to which the reference was entrusted.