Former Pak HC to UK denies receiving NAB notice, says its ‘media trial’

London, Mar. 6 (ANI): Pressure from Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wajid Shamsul Hasan , the former high commissioner to the UK, is mounting as the Bureau has issued a third notice to him to appear before the enquiry committee on March 15.

This time, the attitude of NAB was harsher and according to informed sources, the NAB will contact Interpol for help in arresting and bringing former diplomat to Islamabad.

“We have concrete proofs of embezzlement and other wrongdoings by Wajid Shamsul Hasan, a close ally to PPP and former advisor to Ms. Benazir Bhutto”, the NAB sources said.

Hasan who has continuously refuting receiving NAB notices says that he had done nothing wrong and the NAB is not in a position to take any action against him.

Talking to ‘The Nation’ in London, he termed the NAB allegations as unfounded and baseless saying he did not receive any notice from the NAB.

“Media is reporting that NAB has sent three notices to me whereas the truth is that I never ever received any notice whatsoever and its questionnaire”, he emphasised.

“This is just media trial and nothing more than that”, he reiterated and added that he had done nothing wrong and beyond law. Unfortunately, NAB perhaps believes in a media trail” Hasan said.

He admitted of receiving secret funds in his first tenure as a high commissioner in 1993 but not during the second term which lasted in present regime (in 2014).

According to sources, National Accountability Bureau has once again summoned Wajid Shamsul Hasan on 15 March in a case of alleged misuse of funds.

NAB has asked the former high commissioner to appear before Investigation Officer Afshan Basharat in Islamabad on March 15. Otherwise, arrest warrants will be issued for him.

NAB has also delivered to him a detailed questionnaire, in which he has been asked seven questions.

According to summons notice, former high commissioner has been asked to explain the use of £3.2 million (Rs 469.87 million) of money spent on unauthorised facilities.

NAB has also asked him to answer the question over the misuse of $2.7 million of entertainment fund. Hassan has also been asked to account for £200,000 pounds spent from miscellaneous funds.

The former diplomat will also have to answer for some £100, 000 pounds withdrawn from an account which was in his name.

Another question asks why £4,200 was spent on the purchase of air tickets without following proper rules.

NAB has also asked him why £1,500 was spent on a chartered plane.

Irregularities in the spending of £23,000 spent on sumptuary allowance have also been found.

The auditor general of Pakistan pointed out financial irregularities in his audit report for fiscal year 1996-97. Hassan was High Commissioner in the UK from June 1994 to November 1996.

When asked to explain his position, Hasan said that NAB should contact the Foreign Office and the Pakistan High Commission (PHC)’s Office in the UK for records of allocations and where and how money was spent.

“Both the Foreign Office and the PHC should be contacted,” the former diplomat said. “They must have all the records. Noting was done without proper documentation and approval of the relevant authorities.”

Hasan claimed that he had returned a cheque worth £437,000 (Rs 63.4 million) to Foreign office and recent charges of fraud and misappropriation of secret funds against him are baseless.

However, he is yet to be contacted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) about charges of misappropriation of secret funds to the tune of around a million pounds.

Wajid said he had returned an amount of £437,000 pounds to Foreign Office in February 1997 and it is for NAB to probe where that money has gone. “The copy of the cheque is also available. I delivered the cheque to the chief account officer at the Foreign Office, Islamabad,” he said adding that it was the first incident that the secret fund was returned by someone.

Wajid said he has learnt through media that PAC has asked FIA and NAB to probe the matter but NAB has not officially contacted him so far. He said he was detained in Pakistan in 1997 on similar charges of misappropriation of £200,000

“I was exonerated by the court then too as I produced the receipts of the money paid to the British detectives who were hired to probe the murder of Murtaza Bhutto on the direction of the then government of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto,” Wajid said.

Audit officials told the committee in a meeting in December last year that five cases against the former high commissioner were referred to the NAB and FIA but no record was provided to the audit department for verification.

The Sub-Committee of the PAC on Implementation and Monitoring has taken up audit paras relating to the Ministry of Interior for fiscal year 1996-97. The audit officials told the committee that they had raised objections on a cheque worth 437,000 pounds issued to Wajid but the Foreign Office did not provide any record.

They said another cheque of 200,000 pounds was issued to the former high commissioner in violation of general financial rules. They said 100,000 pounds was withdrawn from Sento funds and another 27,793 pounds from the entertainment allowance but their vouchers were not provided to the audit department.

When asked about the allegations, Wajid said the entertainment allowance is not given without vouchers which were duly provided to the concerned officials at that time. He said Cento fund had been given to the high commissioner by the government and it was used to improve the soft image of Pakistan.

Talking about the audit objection that on September 28, 1996 an aircraft was chartered to attend a conference of the Labour Party of the UK costing 1,486 pounds and these expenses were illegally made as the conference could be attended travelling through staff car, Wajid said the expenses were justified.

“The Labour Party conference was organized to dispel the negative propaganda against Pakistan on issues like child labour and persecution of minorities so I had to attend it. Meanwhile, on the same day Pakistan’s than Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was meeting her British counterpart in London so I had to come back through a charter flight to be present at the key meeting,” he said.

The audit officials told the sub-committee that from April to August in 1996, a payment of more than 700,000 pounds was made to weekly Asia Voice for Pakistan’s projection through 8 cheques and it is clear violation of rules.

However, Wajid said the amount approved was £600,000 out of which only £180,000 was paid to the paper in three instalments and the rest was returned to the Foreign Office. “I could have given the entire amount to the paper but being a former editor I knew the publication may not be sustainable so only paid part of the amount,” he said.

To another question regarding the fate of the original documents concerning the SGS-Cotecna case brought from Geneva to London in 2009, Wajid said all the documents have been sent back to Pakistan and currently they are in NAB’s custody.

NAB is investigating the case against Wajid on the directions of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The committee in a recent meeting had asked the NAB and the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) to submit reports of recoveries they have made from Wajid within three months.

A NAB spokesman Muhammad Bilal confirmed the development but refused to comment further.

An official of the NAB media department said the case has been referred to the anti-corruption watchdog by the Public Accounts Committee of the parliament.

“NAB is investigating the case purely on merit,” he said adding that no further comments could be made as the probe was still going on. (ANI)

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