ISLAMABAD, Oct 3: With the National Accountability Bureau having started the process of fixing criminal charges in the Rental Power Projects case, there is a possibility of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf facing some serious charges.
“In the NAB Ordinance only incumbent president and governors are exempted from NAB’s action but not the sitting prime minister and, therefore, Prime Minister Ashraf can face criminal liabilities,” NAB’s spokesman Zafar Iqbal said.
Besides the prime minister, three other former federal ministers and four former secretaries may face criminal charges in the case.
The prime minister, who is already in hot waters on the issue of writing the crucial letter to Swiss authorities relating money-laundering case, has been accused of receiving the kickback and commission in the RPPs case as minister for water and power.
“We have completed the process of reconciliation or recovery with the RPP firms and the process of fixing criminal liabilities has been started,” the spokesman said.
NAB considers Raja Ashraf as one of the main accused in the case and, therefore, it has twice requested the interior ministry to put his name on the exit control list.
When contacted, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Shafqat Jalil said he could not comment on the issue till NAB actually fixed criminal charges against the prime minister. “First NAB should answer the Supreme Court and then come to us,” he said.
“But, he said, NAB will have to first present its report to the Supreme Court and then come to us,” he said.
At a hearing on Monday a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was of the opinion that NAB was reluctant to act against influential people involved in the case, including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
And the head of the NAB’s legal team (Prosecutor General) Karim Khan Agha said a clause of the NAB ordinance stated that if an accused had returned the misappropriated amount cases against him would come to an end and he would not be prosecuted.
NAB has already arrested former General Manager of Wapda, Rana Muhammad Amjad, for his alleged role in the signing of the agreements with RPPs.
The main accused in the cases include former federal ministers for water and power Liaquat Ali Khan Jatoi and Tariq Hameed, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin, former secretaries of water and power Shahid Rafi, Muhammad Ismail Qureshi and Ishfaq Mehmood, former finance secretary Salman Siddique, former chairmen of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority Khalid Saeed and Lt-Gen (retd) Saeed Uz Zafar and heads of RPPs.
It is learnt that NAB is considering summoning the prime minister for questioning or to send a questionnaire to him to record his statement during criminal proceedings of the case.
Before taking over as prime minister, Raja Ashraf had visited NAB’s headquarters on April 20 and recorded his statement in the case.
However, NAB officials are of the opinion that he will have to record a fresh statement in the event of charges filed against him.
Prime Minister Ashraf in a TV program had denied his involvement in the scam and said that contracts with RPPs had been signed by the Musharraf government in 2006. Similar agreements signed in 2008 had been approved by the federal cabinet and, therefore, it was a collective decision.
Meanwhile, NAB has completed the reconciliation process with RPPs firms for recovering Rs22 billion.
“We have completed the process of reconciliation with the power producing firms and signed agreements with them regarding recovery of the amount,” the NAB spokesman said.
Responding to a question about some foreign RPPs firms he said the agreements with them had been signed because of sovereign guarantees.
In the case nine RPPs firms were accused of receiving more than Rs22 billion as a mobilisation advance from the government to commission the projects but most of them did not set up their plants and a few of them installed them but with inordinate delay.
It has been learnt that a Turkish firm Karkay was the last one which had agreed to make the payment. “The firm has agreed to pay $20 million (Rs1.9 billion) to NAB,” another official said.
NAB has so far recovered Rs5 billion in addition to Rs8 billion paid by the RPPs on the directives of the Supreme Court.