Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf faced inquiry proceedings vis-à-vis the rental power plants (RPP) case at the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for three hours before taking oath as the prime minister, revealed NAB Chairman Fasih Bokhari.
Prime Minister Ashraf’s name has been forwarded to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), Bokhari added while briefing the media on Saturday.
Criminal charges will be registered against all persons involved in the case, if deemed necessary, but despite being accused, Prime Minister Ashraf will continue to perform his duties until the court convicts him, the chairman said.
He added that the bureau has recovered Rs2.2 billion in the RPPs case, while another Rs1.2 billion would be recovered soon.
The NAB chairman also informed the media that a $32 million money laundering case against the Sharif brothers was under investigation. However, no political cases would be opened before general elections, he added. “NAB will not be used as a tool for political victimisation.”
Team to investigate Arsalan-Riaz case
Bokhari said that the government has formed a team to investigate allegations levelled by billionaire property developer Malik Riaz against the chief justice’s son Arsalan Iftikhar.
The team, led by NAB financial crimes director-general, will comprise officials from the bureau, the FIA and the police.
“The team will determine whether it was a case of collusion between two private individuals or extortion,” Bokhari said.
The strength of the team is yet to be determined but it will be able to hire legal, financial and forensic experts, he added.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had asked the government to conduct an inquiry into the case.
Following the court order, Attorney General Irfan Qadir proposed that NAB should form a team to comprehensively investigate this case.
Arsalan, meanwhile, has expressed his distrust over the move, claiming that the heads of both – NAB and FIA – have personal bias against him for being the son of the chief justice.
Moreover, in a letter dated June 25, Arsalan questioned not only Qadir’s credibility but also criticised the attorney-general for “crossing his limits.”
He claimed that under court orders, Qadir’s mandate was only to “set the state machinery in motion.”
Investigations despite letter
The NAB chairman said that Arsalan’s letter was written in a “threatening language” and was tantamount to contempt of court.
Bokhari said the team would investigate the situation irrespective of Arsalan’s objections. He said the inquiry is expected to be complete within three to four months.
Bokhari admitted that he knew Riaz but denied involvement as Arsalan alleged in his letter. He emphasised that investigations would be impartial and transparent, without prejudice to any internal or external pressures.
The assigned team would look into a wide range of material, including relevant transactions and meetings and, if required, details of communication between those associated with the case, Bokhari added.
He also asked the media not to jump to conclusions and allow the inquiry to be completed.
Bokhari said that Rs6 to 8 billion was being squandered daily due to corruption in different government departments.
An agreement between the Royal Palm Country Club and Pakistan Railways is being drafted, and the Railways would get Rs16 billion under the deal facilitated by NAB, he said. He added that NAB had detected Rs55 billion worth of corruption in the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), and blamed it on bad decision-making and undue benefits granted to the local oil industry during the term of former Ogra chairman Touqir Sadiq.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Sadiq and the FIA should take him into custody, Bokhari said.
Mansoor Muzafar, a member of Ogra, had already been arrested and warrants for seven other officers were being finalised, he added.
NAB ranks to swell
The chairman said that 300 new investigators are being inducted in the bureau to enhance its outreach across the country. American and British officials will be involved in training the new investigators, he said.
The bureau’s budget has been doubled to Rs1.6 billion for the upcoming fiscal, from Rs0.8 billion in 2011-12, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2012.