PESHAWAR: The National Accountability Bureau has accepted plea bargain of Syed Masoom Shah, special assistant to then chief minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, after offering to return Rs258 million of his ill-gotten wealth and he would be released after completion of the legal process, said the Bureau’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa director general Shehzad Saleem here on Friday.

He said that the accused, Masoom Shah, would be arrested again if more of his properties were traced apart from the already declared assets.

“The accused will have to submit an undertaking before the court that he will be liable to legal action if any other of his property is traced,” Mr Saleem said while talking to mediapersons here at the NAB’s regional headquarter.

NAB provincial chief says Masoom Shah will return Rs258 million ill-gotten money

The NAB’s executive board has given approval for the said plea bargain a day earlier in Islamabad.

Masoom Shah was arrested on Aug 11 on the charges of possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. The accused had earlier given application of voluntary return and had expressed his willingness to pay Rs200 million to NAB. However, NAB chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry had turned down that application and converted the inquiry against him into an investigation.

Following his arrest he had shown willingness to enter into plea bargain with NAB. Under the National Accountability Ordinance, once the NAB chairman approves a plea bargain application it has to be referred to the accountability court concerned for final approval.

The DG said that following the approval given by the NAB’s executive board an inquiry had already been in progress against former federal minister Arbab Alamgir Khan and his wife Asma Alamgir, a former MNA. He added that other members of the family had also been included in the inquiry as it was necessary to look into each and every asset of all the family members.

Answering a question, the DG said that an inquiry was also in progress against former chief minister Ameer Haider Hoti, who is the provincial president of Awami National Party. He said that all people were respectable to them and they did not want to defame any person, but for fighting the menace of corruption they had been taking action against the corrupt elements.

He stated that the KP NAB since its inception in 1999 had arrested around 681 persons and recovered Rs4.61 billion from them, while during his 20-month tenure as DG they had arrested 141 corrupt persons and recovered Rs2.45 billion from them.

Asked about criticism against the plea bargain, Mr Saleem stated that the provision was not a sort of leniency towards an accused rather it was a punishment. He said that in plea bargain not only the ill-gotten wealth was recovered, but an accused also stood disqualified from holding any public office or contesting elections for 10 years.

“Recovering looted money from corrupt elements and bringing these elements before the court of law clearly proved the efficiency of NAB,” he said, adding that fighting against corruption and creating public awareness in this regard was their prime objective.

The DG also handed over a cheque for Rs65 million to an additional secretary of the finance department, Raza Ullah. The amount recovered from accused persons was misappropriated in the provincial government departments. It merits a mention that while Masoom Shah was in custody the NAB had also recovered 4.5kgs of gold bars concealed by him.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2015