ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has not only made two controversial plea bargain deals in a corruption case against Balochistan’s former finance secretary Mushtaq Raisani but also reached voluntary return agreements of over Rs1 billion with three other accused.
According to details of the investigation into the case shared with the media on Wednesday, National Accountability Bureau made the voluntary return deals after getting Rs1.13bn, despite a two-month-old order of the Supreme Court barring it from making such agreements.
Meanwhile, National Accountability Bureau Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry supported the provision of plea bargain in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, terming it constitutional.
After its executive board meeting held on Dec 21, National Accountability Bureau had divulged two plea bargain deals with Mushtaq Raisani and Sohail Majeed Shah, a contractor. However, it did not make public the voluntary return agreements made with the three other accused who were later made approvers in the case.
NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman supports the provision of plea bargain
Saleem Shah, administrator of the municipal committees of Khaliqabad and Mach, surrendered 11 properties worth Rs1bn kept in the names of five other people (benamidars); Kalat executive engineer Tariq Ali paid Rs10 million and Khaliqabad Municipal Corporation’s accountant Nadeem Iqbal returned Rs3m.
The Supreme Court on Oct 24 restrained the National Accountability Bureau chairman from approving voluntary returns under the provision of the NAO that allows people guilty of corruption to be released after paying a part of the embezzled money.
The scheme even allows government servants to resume work in their departments after availing the voluntary return facility.
“In the meanwhile the NAB chairman is restrained from exercising jurisdiction under Section 25(a) of the NAO till the next date of hearing,” the order issued by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali after hearing a suo motu case on a note of the Supreme Court registrar said.
The suo motu action was taken on the basis of a Sept 2 observation of Justice Amir Hani Muslim in Karachi during the hearing of a NAB appeal in which he had criticised the powers of the chairman to allow an offender to go off scot-free after paying a certain amount of the embezzled money under the voluntary return facility. In case of voluntary return, the amount to be recovered is set by the NAB chairman and the deal does not require the approval of a court. The amount of recovery in plea bargain deals is also fixed by the National Accountability Bureau chief but it requires the approval of the accountability court concerned.
Talking to reporters, the NAB chairman said the bureau always performed within the ambit of the Constitution, adding that the provision of plea bargain existed in the laws of many countries, including Pakistan, and helped recover money from the plunderers and return it to the coffer. He said that National Accountability Bureau had so far recovered Rs285bn, including Rs45bn during recent time.
Mr Chaudhry said NAB had recovered Rs3.5bn in the ‘Double Shah’ scam case and returned the money to 28,899 people who had been lured by him. However, Mufti Ahsan, who had deprived thousands of people of Rs8bn in a Modarba companies scandal, was sent to jail without a plea bargain and the money has not been returned to most of the affected people.
Sharing details of the investigation, a NAB spokesman said Rs6bn was allocated as grant-in-aid to the local councils of Balochistan for salary and development during 2015-16.
NAB, Balochistan, received information that a huge amount was being released to only two municipal committees out of the 726 local bodies in the province.
The budget was to be allocated to all the local councils in accordance with their requirements, but former adviser on finance to the chief minister, Mir Khalid Langove, allocated most of the developmental budget to the Khaliqabad and Mach municipal committees, the spokesman said.
National Accountability Bureau came to know during the inquiry that Rs2.31bn had been released to the two committees.
The grant was directly credited into the accounts of Administrator Saleem Shah, bypassing the local government department. The funds were released on the direct demands of the administrator, with the approval of the secretary.
It was established during the investigation that Rs2.24bn of the Rs2.31bn had been misappropriated.
The embezzled amount was distributed among Sohail Majeed, an alleged front man of the adviser, Mushtaq Raisani and Saleem Shah, the spokesman said.
After the arrest of Saleem Shah, it transpired that the releases had been made into four accounts of both the municipal committees from where the money was transferred to six accounts held by him in the names of fake contractors who surrendered their 11 properties worth over Rs1bn in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority area.
courtesy : dawn news