KARACHI: An accountability court on Saturday approved plea bargain of former chief operating officer of M/s Byco Petroleum Pakistan Ltd with the National Accountability Bureau in a reference pertaining to “corruption” of over Rs60 billion against former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain.

The accused, Kamran Iftikhar Lari, the then COO of Byco, had made the highest plea bargain of Rs1,292,966,602 in the history of NAB Karachi and Hyderabad regions, the prosecution sources told Dawn.

The bureau had filed a new reference nominating Dr Asim, former minister and close aide to former president Asif Ali Zardari, along with the chief executive officer-cum-owner of Byco Amir Abbassciy and its then COO Kamran Iftikhar Lari in the reference.

On Saturday, Mr Lari moved an application under Section 25(b) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 before the Accountability Court-IV judge Suresh Kumar pleading to accept his plea bargain in the sum of Rs1,292,966,602 with NAB authorities.

Sources say plea bargain highest in NAB Karachi, Hyderabad regions’ history

His defence counsel Waheed Alam Jenjer submitted that the NAB chairman had accepted plea bargain on behalf of his client and had subsequently forwarded the matter to the court for its approval.

The counsel submitted that present matter was an offshoot of a matter identified during arrest of ex-minister Dr Asim and subsequently, a complaint was received from M/s Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), wherein it was alleged that the ministry of petroleum had allocated condensate of Hala Block to M/s Byco Petroleum Pakistan Limited, but wilfully it did not make the payments for it after the lapse of seven years.

Accordingly, the NAB chairman authorised an inquiry, which was converted into an investigation and subsequently a reference was filed by NAB with the court.

The counsel informed that the applicant/accused Mr Lari filed an application with the NAB chairman requesting to accept his plea bargain and he agreed to pay the amount, which was determined as liability on his part in the present case.

The counsel informed that the federal anti-graft watchdog had determined liability against the applicant/accused at Rs1,292,966,602, who had initially furnished a pay order of Rs439,608,645 and had also given bank guarantee of two remaining instalments each amounting to Rs426,678,979. He also produced the deposited pay orders of two remaining instalments, totalling Rs1,292,699,602 in favour of NAB chairman along with his affidavit.

The judge wrote in the order that the application was accepted by the NAB chairman on Oct 9 and had been forwarded to the court for its approval.

The investigating officer of the case also submitted a statement of verification of all three pay orders given by the applicant/accused.

After hearing arguments from special public prosecutor Dr Raja Muhammad Ali and examining the case record, the judge noted that the plain reading of Section 25(b) of the NAO, 1999 revealed that the NAB chairman in his discretion after taking into consideration facts and circumstances of the case can accept the offer on such terms and conditions as he may consider necessary and if the accused agrees to return the amount determined by NAB, its chairman shall refer the case to the court for its approval.

The judge wrote that since the applicant/accused had cleared his liabilities, the application in hand is approved accordingly and the applicant/accused is convicted of an offence under Section 25(b) of the NAO, 1999.

The judge ordered that the applicant/accused shall forthwith cease to hold public office, if any, and stood disqualified for a period of 10 years.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2020

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