LONDON: Pakistan’s former finance minister Ishaq Dar has won a defamation case against New Vision Television (NVTV) at the London High Court over allegations of corruption, money laundering and misuse of authority.
According to a report of Saeed Niazi’s for ‘The News’ NVTV had broadcast allegations made by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar and the Reporters’ Programme by Chaudhry Ghulam Husain and Sabir Shakir, alleging that Ishaq Dar was involved in money-laundering, corruption, had looted billions of rupees belonging to Pakistan, had foreign accounts containing billions of rupees, used undue influence over Financial Monitoring Unit and was involved in issuing death threats to a government official.
In an apology to Ishaq Dar at the London High Court, NVTV has accepted that its allegations against Dar were false, fabricated and baseless. The TV channel has agreed to pay damages and legal costs to Mr Ishaq Dar for the hurt, embarrassment and defamation.
NVTV aired the apology on its UK TV channel on Monday evening, displaying a picture of Ishaq Dar while issuing an apology to him. The apology said: “On 8 July 2019, New Vision television broadcast the Reporters programme in which it was asserted by Choudhury Ghulam Hussain and Sabir Shakir that Mr Ishaq Dar had stolen money from the Pakistani government and was willing to pay it back if allowed to return to Pakistan. It was also asserted that Mr Ishaq Dar’s bank accounts had been traced and that they contained large sums of stolen money in the region of one billion dollars. Further comments were made, asserting that Mr Ishaq Dar had caused someone to be subjected to death threats in order to encourage that person to leave Pakistan.
“Mr Ishaq Dar has informed us, and we are prepared to accept, first, that he has not stolen any money from the Pakistani government, secondly, that no bank account of Mr Ishaq Dar was traced, and consequently, the question of any stolen money does not arise, thirdly, that the claim that Mr Ishaq Dar was willing to pay any such money in order to return to Pakistan was also false and fabricated, and fourthly that Mr Ishaq Dar never made death threats to anyone.”
About the allegations made by Shehzad Akbar, NVTV apologised and said: “On 8 August 2019, New Vision television broadcast the Powerplay programme. During the course of that programme, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar asserted that during the period Ishaq Dar was responsible for the Financial Monitoring Unit in Pakistan, he actively and improperly impeded its work, by preventing key institutions accessing systems that would assist it in its functions. It was further asserted that Mr Ishaq Dar had taken those actions to protect individuals who had been involved in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills money laundering case.
“Mr Ishaq Dar has informed us, and we are prepared to accept, that he never managed the Financial Monitoring Unit, since the Unit was established under the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 and operates directly under the State Bank of Pakistan; and therefore, Mr Ishaq Dar never impeded the work of Financial Monitoring Unit nor did he do anything to protect anybody in any case including the alleged Choudhury Sugar Mills money laundering case.”
The apology concluded: “We unconditionally apologise to Mr Ishaq Dar for the significant distress, upset and embarrassment which these broadcasts have caused him. We have agreed to pay Mr Ishaq Dar substantial damages for libel and to pay his legal costs.”
Shahzad Akbar had alleged that the Financial Monitoring Unit is a world-wide financial intelligence unit which is the best system designed to detect money-laundering. He added: “It exists under Pakistani law, since 2007. In the past five years, there has been one man who didn’t let this institution function. That man was [former Finance Minister] Ishaq Dar. Ishaq Dar paralysed this institution. When Ishaq Dar exited, the FMU began to do some work, it was brought back to life to some extent. Global institutions had funded the software that was going to support the FMU’s work but Ishaq Dar did not allow them to gain access. Now that he is a fugitive, gone away, it has begun to work and all these transactions are coming to the forefront.”
Launching his case at the London High Court, Ishaq Dar had claimed that the allegations made in both of these programmes were understood to mean that he had stolen money from the Pakistani government and was willing to pay it back if allowed to return to Pakistan; that his bank accounts have been traced and they contain large sums of stolen money, in the region of one billion dollars; that he issued death threats and that he was responsible for preventing the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) and other key institutions from working, including being involved in fraudulently protecting the individuals who had been involved in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills money laundering case.
Dar had claimed that the imputations conveyed by the publications constituted very serious defamatory allegations of which he was reported to be guilty as a matter of fact. Dar had claimed he suffered very serious harm to his reputation and has suffered considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment.
Dar denied all allegations as politically motivated witch-hunt and claimed damages for libel, including aggravated damages and a full apology and retraction of all allegations.
Commenting on the outcome of the case, Ishaq Dar said: “Alhamdulllah. I have been vindicated at the UK High Court and justice has prevailed. The allegations made against me were false, malafide and evil. I have never been involved in corruption or any unlawful activity and never used any influence against any institution. The allegations made by the pro-government media house and Shahzad Akbar were aimed at damaging my reputation but Allah SWT has been most kind and the TV channel has accepted in the UK judicial process that the allegations were fabricated, false and untrue. The TV channel has accepted that I was maligned and nothing wrong has been done by me. I am humbled and thankful to Almighty Allah for this victory which has come through an independent judicial process of the UK High Court. It proves how our leader Mohammad Nawaz Sharif and his party colleagues have been subjected to political engineering and malicious campaign of lies but Allah SWT in His infinite mercy has been helping us by protecting our reputation and establishing our innocence at the international courts. I am thankful to all those democratic leaders and workers who always stood by me and never believed in the allegations thrown at me.”