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SC sets two-week deadline for NAB to arrest main accused in NICL scam

March 13, 2019

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Justice Gulzar chastises NAB "for serving tea and biscuits" to the absconding accused but not executing his arrest. — Dawn/File
Justice Gulzar chastises NAB "for serving tea and biscuits" to the absconding accused but not executing his arrest. — Dawn/File

The Supreme Court on Wednesday set a two-week deadline for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to arrest Mohsin Habib Warriach, the main accused in a Rs1.68 billion scam involving the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL).

A three-member bench under Justice Gulzar Ahmed's stewardship heard the case today, and ordered the corruption watchdog to furnish a report after executing the court's orders.

The apex court's orders came after it was told in the previous hearing that the corruption watchdog was letting loose bigwigs but chasing small fry.

Before issuing the orders, the court noted that Mohsin Habib Warraich did not appear in the court despite being summoned, and instead sent a request for adjournment through his counsel.

Justice Gulzar expressed his displeasure at NAB's failure to make Warraich's arrest. "Mohsin Habib [Warraich] has already appeared before NAB," the judge said. "NAB served him tea and biscuits, and sent him on his way despite court orders to arrest him."

"Mohsin Habib fled despite his name being on the Exit Control List," added Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

At this, Justice Gulzar asked "what guarantees are there that the suspect would not flee again?"

"We will seek the record of Mohsin Habib's departure from the authorities concerned," replied NAB's prosecutor general.

"There cannot be no records for fleeing the country on a launch (motorboat)," Justice Ahsan reminded the NAB official.

The prosecutor general also detailed the court about the allegations facing the suspects. "Mohsin Habib conspired to sell land at inflated prices," he said. "The other accused, Ayyaz Niazi (former NICL chairman) has been sentenced. Rs4.4 million are left to be recovered from him."

Subsequently, the case was adjourned for two weeks.

NICL corruption case

The NICL corruption scandal revolves around the alleged misuse of authority for Niazi's appointment, hampering the investigation process regarding his appointment, and corruption committed by the accused along with others, including Warraich.

The story of the Rs6-billion-plus NICL scam broke in 2009-10 when Warraich’s company, Messrs Privilege, purchased 803 kanals from the NICL at Mauza Toor, Lahore, for a sum of Rs1.68b. The company allegedly sold the land without getting the property mutated in its favour.

The NICL also sold land measuring 20 kanals near the Lahore Airport Road to Warraich for Rs1.7b. It sold the land at a rate of Rs5.3 million per kanal, although its market value was much higher.

Initially the scam was being investigated by the Federal Investigation Agency, but was transferred to NAB in 2014 on the directives of the Supreme Court.

In Dec 2018, an accountability court in Karachi had sentenced Niazi and five others to seven years in prison for their involvement in the corruption case.