ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday came down hard on National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry for entering into a plea bargain with former Balochistan finance secretary Mushtaq Raisani, who was found in possession of approximately Rs650 million in cash and 3.2kg in gold.
“Prima facie, NAB stepped beyond its jurisdiction by approving the plea bargain since the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) does not sanction plea bargain on recovered amounts, but on money which was offered to it,” observed Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a member of a three-judge SC bench.
The bench, headed by Justice Dost Mohammad Khan, had taken up a bail plea of Mir Khalid Langov, former adviser to the Balochistan chief minister on finance, who was also arrested by NAB for his alleged involvement in the same corruption case.
SC asks bureau for footage of raid on Raisani’s residence
Langov, a co-accused, had approached the Supreme Court with the plea that though NAB released Raisani on bail after a plea bargain, he was still languishing in jail.
Under Section 25 of the NAO, the NAB chairman, with the approval of any accountability court, can order the release of an accused found guilty of corruption after he/she enters into a plea bargain or an agreement by returning the misappropriated money to the bureau.
Although NAB Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar was arguing the case, the court called Qamar Zaman Chaudhry — who was present in the courtroom — to the rostrum and inquired about his recommendation to grant Raisani a plea bargain, saying the way this provision had been exercised elicited doubts.
The prosecutor general clarified that the NAB chairman only approved the decision taken by the executive board in meetings, which were always presided over by the chairman.
But the court was bitter over the fact that the anti-corruption watchdog was affording concessions to a government functionary from whose custody a huge amount of stolen money was recovered.
The court asked Mr Dar to read Section 25 of the NAO, which requires the chairman to provide detailed reasons for granting a plea bargain, and deplored that the bureau did not want to follow the law. What were the peculiar circumstances that compelled NAB to allow a plea bargain in this case, the court asked the chairman and said this plea bargain could become the basis of a disciplinary action against him.
“Why does NAB always find it difficult to come out with the truth,” Justice Isa wondered. The bureau had, in fact, sold out the country, he said.
When the NAB chairman said the prosecutor general would respond on his behalf, the court asked him to answer its questions.
Mr Chaudhry then maintained that NAB was of the view that a plea bargain would help in swift disposal of the matter and said the provision was provided in the law enacted 12 years ago.
He said that complete record of the plea bargain with Raisani had been submitted to the court. He said that in addition to the cash and gold recovered, the accused had surrendered two houses as well as Mercedes Benz and Toyota vehicles. The documents submitted to the court showing the grant of a plea bargain contained his signatures, he added.
At one point, Justice Dost Mohammad asked NAB officials to respond to all the questions being asked by the court in writing and tried to postpone the hearing, but Justice Isa observed that the court would need to issue a notice to Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf to come out with the government’s stance on this point and deplored NAB’s failure to file a reference against the accused despite a lapse of several months.
“This shows how honest the bureau is,” the court regretted.
Justice Isa observed that NAB had overstepped its authority by letting the accused off scot-free, when it should be the bureau’s duty to protect the hard-earned money, which must have come in the shape of taxes to the government.
When Justice Isa asked the NAB chairman to furnish footage recorded during the raid on Raisani’s residence, the prosecutor general said the bureau did not have a DVD of the raid.
But video footage was aired by the media, Justice Isa recalled, asking NAB officials whether the media was invited to the raid or if they had reached the spot on their own. “Should the court order the media to facilitate NAB in their investigation?” the court asked.
The court was told that while complete footage of the raid was not available, NAB was in possession of certain clips. The court then adjourned the proceedings to Feb 9.
courtesy : dawn news