–SHC sets aside acquittal verdict after FIA prosecutor says there’s sufficient evidence against Axact CEO
KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Monday arrested Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh after the Sindh High Court (SHC) entertained the agency’s petition against the acquittal of Shaikh and others accused in a money laundering case.
SHC Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto led a two-member bench that sent the money laundering case to the trial court for further proceedings and ordered Shoaib Shaikh to show up before the trial court on March 3.
The FIA prosecutor requested the SHC to order set aside the impugned verdict, contending that there was sufficient evidence against the Axact CEO. The defense counsel, while denying all the charges levelled against Shoaib, requested the court to dismiss the FIA’s appeal.
After hearing the arguments from both sides, the bench accepted the FIA’s appeal and ruled the verdict of the sessions court that acquitted Shoaib as annulled. The SHC also ordered a retrial of the case and directed the concerned court to decide the case within three months.
Following the verdict, the Axact CEO tried to escape from the court in his car but he could not do so as the FIA personnel reached to nab him, forcing him to return to the court premises from where no accused person could be arrested as per traditions.
In another bid to avert his arrest, Shoaib’s lawyers filed an application and requested the court to restrain the FIA from arresting him by suspending its own order for three days or grant him protective bail.
Shahab Sarki, who was representing the Axact chief, submitted before the court that his client was willing to surrender before the trial court but apprehended that he could be arrested by the FIA.
This application was also turned down by the judges who ruled that the protective bail could not be granted.
After the dismissal of the bail application, Shoaib came out of the SHC premises where the FIA team was waiting for his return for several hours.
The FIA personnel eventually managed to take the Axact CEO into custody and shifted him to their office.
On February 21, the SHC had adjourned the hearing of the FIA plea, directing the Axact CEO to ensure his presence in court for the next hearing.
The FIA counsel informed the judges that it had requested the interior ministry to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue the case, assuring the court that the special prosecutor would be appointed within three days.
Earlier, FIA had approached SHC against the verdict of district and sessions court that acquitted the Axact chief in the case. Hearing an application under section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code, the trial court had relieved him from the charges.
In its plea challenging the trial court’s verdict, FIA had maintained that the district and sessions court did not follow due procedure while acquitting Shoaib. The FIA prosecutor requested SHC to order the setting aside of the previous verdict, maintaining that sufficient evidence was available against the Axact CEO.
Shaikh had been facing charges of money laundering and sale of fake degrees. The scandal came to light when the New York Times published an investigative report in which the publication alleged that Axact was involved in selling fake degrees online.
Other accused in the case included Chanda Exchange Company’s Muhammad Younis and Junaid, who allegedly received 170 million rupees through 116 cheques.