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SC refers Swati`s assets case to FBR for probe

By Nasir Iqbal 2019-01-09
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred a matter relating to alleged amassing of wealth beyond known sources of income by former science and technology minister Mohammad Azam Khan Swati to the Federal Board of Revenue as well as the Islamabad police for a comprehensive probe.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had taken up a case relating to sudden transfer of Islamabad Inspector General Jan Mohammad in the wake of conflicting reports about a dispute between Mr Swati and the IG.

The dispute arose after the government removed the IG and surrendered his services to the Establishment Division. On Dec 6, Mr Swati had quit the ministry, saying he had tendered his resignation to uphold his moral authority.

The apex court referred the matter to the FBR after Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, representing Mr Swati, highlighted that a joint investigation team (JIT) had alleged that there had been concealment of assets and evasion of income tax,but thisrequiredfurtherprobe.

He contended that his client was willing to face any inquiry by the FBR and would treat this as an opportunity to clear his name and, therefore, this matter might be sent to the FBR for initiating any legal proceedings in accordance with the law.

The counsel recalled that the minister had resigned to face the allegations and even a case had been registered against his son and employees in which proceedings were continuing. He alleged that the JIT report against Mr Swati contained allegations which had to be proved in accordance with the law before a trial court, adding that the JIT was an investigative agency and not a substitute for a court and its report was mere allegations and not a final verdict.

The counsel argued that the principle of fair trial enshrined in Article 10-A of the Constitution required that matters raised by the JIT should be sent to the respective forums/courts/tribunals for trial and it was only if the allegations were proved against Mr Swati in competent courts that the Supreme Court could proceed under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution for his disqualification.

He said the JIT report contained five allegations like whether Mr Swati`s son and servants or the accused were aggressors. This involves criminal liability and may be sent for trial as per law and the trial court will decide the true facts. Likewise, he added, Mr Swati was accused of being involved in the transfer of the Islamabad IG, but JIT itself had confirmed that he was not involved in the transfer and hence no action needed be taken in this respect.

Referring to the allegation of encroachment, the counsel argued that if the Capital Development Authority (CDA) deemed fit, it could take action and Mr Swati would defend himself before an appropriate forum as per law.

About the allegation of concealment of assets and mis-declaration in nomination forms, Barrister Zafar submitted that it was only after legal proceedings were finalised with the FBR that the question of mis-declaration could be determined.

Earlier, senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui, who was appointed amicus curiae by the apex court, argued that criminal and civil liabilities were to be determined by an appropriate forum but the case of mis-declaration could finally be decided by the Supreme Court if it was found that there had been any concealment. Citing the JIT report, he said Mr Swati had no role in the transfer of the IG, but noted that the transfer had been made the same day the officer had failed to answer his phone.

As per the JIT report, Mr Siddiqui said, Mr Swati had provided misinformation about two of his assets. When the chief justice inquired about the forum apart from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to probe the allegations, he contended that action could be taken against the former minister through criminal law, while disqualification proceedings could also be initiated for concealing assets.

Mr Siddiqui contended that Mr Swati`s assets might not be in line with his sources of income.

When the court, while pointing towards incumbent IG Mohammad Amir Zulfiqar Khan, regretted that the officer was still maintaining loyalties since no case had yet been registered against Mr Swati, the IG said a challan had been filed against Mr Swati`s son Usman as well as Najeebullah Khan Mohammad, Faiz Mahmood and Jahanzeb.