ISLAMABAD: Announcing its verdict in the Pakistan Steel Mills case, the Supreme Court Wednesday transferred the enquiry of Rs26 billion corruption scam from FIA to NAB.
A three-member bench of the apex court, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Tariq Pervez, heard the suo moto on corruption and mismanagement in the steel mill.Regarding Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who interfered in the court’s proceeding about this case and transferred former FIA DG Tariq Khosa in December 2009, the court issued him another notice for a date after two weeks. The bench had earlier rejected Malik’s reply on the show cause and had decided to frame the charge against him.
The detailed 57-page verdict was authored and read by Justice Tariq Pervez. Transferring the PSM case investigation from FIA (Federal Investigation Authority) to NAB (National Accountability Bureau), the court directed NAB chairman to monitor the probe and complete it in three month. It also directed NAB to file cases for cancellation of bails of the accused, including former PSM chairman Moeen Aftab, and file fortnightly progress report in the SC’s Registrar Office.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the FIA’s investigation the court observed “we feel that to secure the interest of public at large, the propriety demands that the investigation so far conducted by the FIA, which appears to us unsatisfactory, shall now be taken over by the NAB authorities. Therefore, we direct the FIA DG to handover all the record so far prepared/collected by the FIA in this mega scam of the PSM to the NAB chairman.”
Giving seven different directions to NAB chairman, the court ordered him to supervise/appoint a team of honest and upright officers under his administration to further probe the mega scam of more than 26 billion rupees losses to the PSM which pertains only to one financial year i.e. 2008-2009. “Determine the accusation against the individuals responsible for such losses and misappropriation – including negligence; since the sufficient material including the Forensic Audit Report will be before him, his team shall feel facilitated for further probing in the matter in its own manner,” it further asked him.
The court also directed NAB to take immediate and stringent steps for the recovery of looted money from the responsible and ensure completion of investigation in shortest possible time. It ordered NAB chairman to ensure arrest of accused who have been declared absconder or who may be found involved in the case. “If in his opinion the bail obtained by some of the nominated accused is not justified, he shall direct his prosecution agency to seek cancellation of the same by filing application before the court of competent jurisdiction.” The court asked the NAB chief to make it sure that after and on completion of enquiry, references are filed against the persons found involved in the crime.
The court said that it is generally unadvisable that the charge of an under investigation matter be taken over and entrusted to another agency, “but in the given circumstances, we are constrained to hold that the no meaningful results are likely to be achieved towards the investigation so far conducted by the FIA, in particular qua the recovery of misappropriated money, which is not within the power and jurisdiction of the FIA authorities but under the law, the NAB authorities can recover the said misappropriated money besides criminally prosecuting the persons either mentioned in the reports of the FIA so far filed or to whom the NAB authorities subsequently will find so involved in the scam in the PSM for the year 2008-2009.”
The court observed that incumbent NAB chairman has been making public statements on his uprightness and integrity, but his very job requires him and other NAB officials to be nothing but honest and upright and they should prove it through their conduct and take to task those who have plundered the public money. The court reiterated that the investigation by the FIA so far has failed to pinpoint the real beneficiaries under the garb of M/S Abbas Steel Group. “The (prime) purpose of present proceeding is not to punish someone but to recover the looted money.”
One of the nine reasons listed by the bench for transferring the investigation was filing of either preliminary or incomplete reports by the FIA. “We do not find any serious effort on the part of the FIA towards prosecution of the cases registered through the FIRs mentioned above.”It said that despite court observations and apparent unhappiness of FIA about bails granted to the accused, no appeal for cancellation of bails was filed. Then, there were number of accused who have been shown absconder but no purposeful steps were taken by the FIA to procure their arrest except obtaining only their warrants of arrest.
The court noted that it has been admitted at the bar by the FIA Director Legal and other officials that so far as recovery of misappropriated amount is concerned, it cannot be successfully effected by the FIA authorities, whereas they themselves in their reports have not only pinpointed the names of those persons, who were responsible for the said misappropriation of money but in some matters, they have specified the mount misappropriated by the individuals.
During the course of investigation, FIA DG Tariq Khosa from whom there were good expectations was transferred and later on the court had non-cooperation or at times evasive replies by some of the DGs, the court observed. At the first stage of proceedings, the then DG Waseem Ahmed openly disagreed with the reports of his own subordinates, who were conducting the investigations. The entire investigation appears to be casual and not final and result oriented, it added. “We do not find any conclusive report prepared by the FIA.”
The court also said in its judgment that Pakistan Steel Mills is one of such public sector installation of which people of Pakistan are proud of and consider it to be the backbone of industries culture for Pakistan. “It is not for the first time that this court is under obligation to save the national asset but even earlier too in the year 2005, the PSM was subject matter before this court in the case of Wattan Party vs Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2006 SC 697)”, it added. – Nation