KARACHI: An accountability court on Thursday acquitted a former acting chairman of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and four private contractors in an eight-year-old case pertaining to corruption of Rs38 million.
The then acting chairman (ex-director commercial) of the PSM, Sameen Asghar, along with four contractors, Tariq Irshad, Mehmood, Asghar Jameel Rizvi and Abbas Ali Amreliwala, was exonerated from the charges of corruption in purchase of steel items in 2008 and causing losses to the tune of Rs38m to the national exchequer.
Accountability Court-IV Judge Suresh Kumar on Thursday pronounced his verdict which was earlier reserved after recording evidence and final arguments from both sides.
The judge ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the charges against the accused, and acquitted them for want of evidence.
According to the prosecution, the four nominated contractors had purchased steel items from the steel mills under a free credit scheme introduced by its management on Oct 20, 2008. Under the scheme, the management had waived off payment of 1.25 per cent mark-up from the dealers/contractors on its sales.
It alleged that although the free credit scheme ended on Nov 30, 2008, Sameen Asghar being the then acting chairman approved delivery of items to the contractors under the garb of the same scheme, thus avoiding charging mark-up on the same.
The Supreme Court took a suo motu notice of the affairs in the mills in 2009 and ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to launch inquiries against the top management of the steel mills and the private contractors over massive corruption.
Later, the inquiries were transferred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which filed several references, including the present one, nominating Sameen Asghar along with co-accused Tariq Irshad, Mehmood, Asghar Jameel Rizvi and Abbas Ali Amreliwala in 2012.
In the reference, the anti-graft watchdog claimed that the acting PSM chairman in connivance with private contractors had caused losses worth Rs38m through mark-up evasion on the sales.
In his arguments, special public prosecutor Dr Raja Mohammad Ali stated that there was sufficient evidence available on record to establish the role of the accused persons with the commissioning of the offence in the reference. He asked the court to punish them strictly in accordance with the law.
Defence counsel Shaukat Hayat, Khawaja Naveed Ahmed and Mohammad Ashraf Kazi contended that Sameen Asghar being the then acting PSM chief had lawfully approved the sale of the steel items to the contractors under the free credit scheme.
They also contended that partial deliveries of the steel items, ordered by the four accused under the free credit scheme, were made to them when the scheme expired on Nov 30, 2008.
They maintained that Sameen Asghar had passed an administrative order for the delivery of the remaining items to the dealers/contractors, but the NAB claimed they were fresh deliveries made without applicable mark-up. NAB, therefore, considered the non-payment of the mark-up as losses, they argued.
They asked the court to acquit their clients of the false and fabricated allegations levelled against them in the present reference.
Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2021