KARACHI: The National Accounta­bility Bureau (NAB) arrested the chairman of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company along with two others over alleged financial irregularities in Nooriabad power project, official sources said on Wednesday.

The accountability watchdog detained Khursheed Jamali, chairman of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company; Syed Asif Mahmood, chief executive officer of M/s Technomen Kinetic Pvt Ltd; and Syed Arif Ali, director of the Nooriabad Power Company, on Tuesday.

According to a notification issued by NAB, the three were arrested for committing “irregularities in the affairs of Sindh Transmission and Dispatch Company” located in Nooriabad.

The Nooriabad power project was launched in 2014 under a public-private partnership at a cost of Rs13 billion in which the Sindh government held 49 per cent shares and a private company owned 51pc. A 95km-long 132kV double-circuit transmission line was laid from Nooriabad to Karachi at a cost of Rs1.95bn.

A NAB joint investigation team is probing around 16 cases, including the fake bank accounts case against former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, his business partners Anwar Majeed and his sons, former Pakistan Stock Exchange chairman Hussain Lawai and banker Taha Raza.

The matter pertaining to alleged fake bank accounts and money laundering is currently pending trial before an accountability court in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the administrative judge of the accountability courts on Wednesday granted NAB four-day transitory remand of the three Nooriabad power project suspects.

NAB deputy director (investigation officer) Hammad Kamal informed the court that the three men were arrested from Karachi in connection with a matter pertaining to joint investigation team’s probe into the alleged bank accounts and money laundering case.

He produced copies of the arrest warrants and authorisation of the inquiry against the detained suspects and informed the court that since their custody was required to be shifted to Islamabad, their week-long transitory remand might be granted.

However, judge Dr Sher Bano Karim granted four-day transitory remand and directed the IO to produce them before the administrative judge of the accountability courts in Islamabad on or before May 25.

Murtaza Wahab, adviser to the Sindh chief minister on information, law and anti-corruption, said on Wednesday that a new era of conspiracy had been launched against the Thar coal project as Mr Jamali associated with the project and two other investors had been arrested by NAB despite NAB chairman’s announcement that no businessmen would be arrested.

Speaking to the media outside the Sindh Assembly, he said conspiracies had been hatched against the Thar coal project right from its beginning and later stories of its low quality were spread.

Citing the case of the Nooriabad power project, he said it was approved by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority and an agreement was signed with the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company for purchasing electricity, but at the eleventh hour Hesco had regretted to stick to its earlier agreement.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2019