ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau team charged with bringing back Hamesh Khan, the prime accused in Bank of Punjab loan scam (Haris Steel Mills case), touched down in Lahore on Friday evening.
The high-profile banker was escorted from New York to Lahore by NAB deputy prosecutor-general Raja Aamir and the bureau’s Punjab deputy director Rizwan Khan. The trio was also accompanied by an official of the Pakistan embassy to ensure Khan, who is also a US citizen, wasn’t mistreated by NAB or the police. He wasn’t handcuffed at the airport and was escorted to NAB Punjab’s Chunba House in a bulletproof vehicle, escorted by the police and the Elite Force.
Khan was extradited from the US as per the orders of the three-member bench hearing the case regarding his alleged involvement in the scam. The bench features Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday. Before adjourning the Friday morning hearing, the bench ordered NAB to present Khan in court on May 26.
Chaudhry directed NAB to shift Hamesh Khan upon arrival to Chamba House in safe custody and said that his legal counsel, family members, friends must be allowed to meet him. NAB director investigation Sahibzada Rifat Rauf assured the Supreme Court that Hamesh Khan would be dealt according to the law and would be provided with all the facilities other prisoners enjoy. Foreign Office legal counsel Sher Bahadur also promised the bench that no one would mistreat Khan.
The NAB chairman has also directed all NAB officers to treat Hamesh Khan as per the law. Meanwhile, Khan’s counsel Zulfiqar Ali Bhatti said his client has not pocketed any commission, that the allegations of embezzlement and corruption levelled against him are false and that he will defend Khan at every forum. On the other hand, Punjab advocate-general Khawaja Harris told the bench that a three-member committee has been set up to recover the embezzled amount by disposing off the property of one of the main accused in the case, Sheikh Afzal.
The committee is headed by Justice Jamshed Ali Shah and includes Afzal’s legal counsel Uzair Bhindari and Bank of Punjab operations head Syed Faqir Azmali. During the hearing, Chaudhry also asked Rauf to investigate the veracity of Afzal’s statement regarding lawyers who purportedly received bribes on behalf of judges.
The top judge told Rauf to investigate the issue and affix appropriate responsibility and that Afzal ought to be punished if found to have been lying. On Saturday (today), NAB is expected to seek 14-day physical remand of Khan from an accountability court. If convicted in the loan scam case, Khan stands to get 14 years imprisonment. (ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RANA TANVEER IN LAHORE)
Published in the Express Tribune, May 15th, 2010.
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