ISLAMABAD, May 24: The Supreme Court asked the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Thursday to take action against Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim for his involvement in the National Insurance Company (NICL) land scam.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Tariq Pervez observed that NICL Chairman Ayaz Khan Niazi had caused a loss to the national exchequer in the purchase of property in Karachi for investment.

The court said the question was whether an offence could be condoned after the return of plundered wealth.

The chief justice asked the FIA to determine the criminal liability in the matter and bring all those responsible to book.

The court noted that acting on a summary moved by the then commerce secretary, the minister had appointed as NICL chairman a person who was not eligible for the post. It said the minister’s action was illegal and against Section 12 of the Pakistan Insurance Ordinance.

FIA Director (Karachi) Moazzam Jah informed the court that nine arrests had been made and Rs1 billion recovered, but the case could not be taken up due to non-availability of judges.

He said Rs40 million had been transferred to an account belonging to Mr Fahim, his wife Rizwana Amin and son Jaliluz Zaman after sale of property by the NICL. He disclosed that Mr Fahim was yet to return the money.

Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood’s statement that no further clues to corruption had been found after an exhaustive forensic audit of the NICL infuriated the chief justice who said people’s wealth had been plundered and it must be returned to them.

He ordered that it should be found out why the money had been taken and returned. He said when action could be taken against the prime minister for not complying with the court orders, a minister could also be proceeded against for violating the law.

The commerce secretary said shares in the NICL belonged to the government and it could appoint anyone as head of the corporation.

Noting that the appointment of Mr Niazi as chairman as unlawful, the court served notices on former and current chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan to explain why the appointment had been made.

It sought details of transactions related to the scam and asked why an unlawful summary signed by Mr Fahim had been sent to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for approval.

The court said legal action would be taken under criminal clauses even if the minister returned the money. The hearing was adjourned till June 7.

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