KARACHI: An accountability court on Saturday acquitted former Pakistan Steel Mills chairman Moeen Aftab Sheikh and five others in a case pertaining to Rs61 million corruption in the award of canteen contracts in 2008-09.

Mr Sheikh, then principal executive officer retired Brigadier Abdul Qayyum, then deputy general manager Mohammad Farooq, then deputy GM Imtiaz-ul-Haq, then deputy manager Asghar Ali, then deputy GM Mohammad Atique Khan along with then chairman of the food committee Najamuddin Saho and three contractors were charged with awarding canteens’ contracts at exorbitant rates.

On Saturday, Judge Suresh Kumar of the Accountability Court-IV pronounced his verdict.

The judge noted that the prosecution failed to prove its case against six accused persons. Therefore, he exonerated them by extending them the benefit of the doubt.

Prosecution officials said that accused Najamuddin Saho and Asghar Ali had died during the trial while private contractor Ali Haider had made plea bargain with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Another contractor, Mohammad Atique, was previously acquitted by the court.

According to the prosecution, the Federal Investigation Agency had initially conducted an inquiry into the award of contracts for 19 canteens of the PSM for the year 2008-09 allegedly on very exorbitant subsidy rate amounting to Rs127,291,007 for its 10,113 employees instead of the approved subsidy rate of Rs46,249,827 after the addition of up to 30 per cent inflation rate in the edible items in comparison to Rs35,776,790 for the year 2007-08.

Later, NAB conducted an inquiry that allegedly proved that the seven PSM officers had misused their authority and provided unlawful gain to three private contractors, causing losses of Rs61m to the national exchequer.

In August 2014, the court had indicted the accused persons for the offences alleged to have been committed by them in connivance with each other.

Defence counsel Shaukat Hayat, Sabih Ishrat, Khalid Dahar and Raja Basantani pleaded to the court to acquit their clients of false and fabricated allegations.

Special public prosecutor Dr Raja Mohammad Ali contended that there was sufficient evidence to prove the allegations against the accused persons and asked the court to punish them strictly in accordance with the law.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2021

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