KARACHI: An accountability court acquitted on Saturday a former chairman of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) with 16 dealers in a Rs311 million graft case, as the prosecution had failed to prove the case after the lapse of 12 years.
Then PSM chief Moin Aftab Shaikh, then director (commercial) Sameen Asghar with private dealers — Abdul Razzaq, Mansoor Ali, M. Hamid, M. Rafiq, Ahmed Hasan Jiwani, Faisal Hafeez, M. Adil Usman, M. Farooq Ali, Qutub Khan, M. Nasruddin, Ilyas Ahmed, Waseem Manzoor, Ms Naseem Akhtar and Ahmed Mehmood — were charged with corruption.
Mr Shaikh has so far been acquitted in five such references, while four other graft references are still pending trial against him on identical allegations.
NAB filed a reference in 2012 stating that the PSM had suffered losses of Rs311.378m
Two nominated accused, Abrar Ali and Zulfiqar Ali, are still absconding so the case has been kept on dormant file against them till their arrest or surrender.
On Saturday, Accountability Court-IV judge Suresh Kumar pronounced his verdict.
Mr Shaikh along with Mr Asghar and others appeared before the court on bail.
According to the prosecution, the National Accountability Bureau filed a reference in 2012 stating that the PSM suffered losses of Rs311.378m in the allocation of billets and hot-rolled coils to private companies owned by the nominated dealers.
The anti-graft watchdog had alleged that Mr Shaikh in the capacity of the PSM chairman and Mr Asghar as the director (commercial) during fiscal year 2008-09 by misusing their authority and official positions allegedly with criminal intent and common objective, unlawfully and fraudulently allocated the quota of billets and hot-rolled coils to the nominated traders.
The deals caused losses of Rs311.378m to the PSM and corresponding gains were extended to the private persons and their alleged absconding accomplices.
The PSM chief and director were accused of wilfully not exercising their authority to prevent the grant or rendition of any undue benefit or favour to these private dealers/traders, which both officers could have prevented by exercising their authority in a lawful manner.
In 2009, then chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry took suo motu notice of the maladministration and corruption in the PSM affairs.
In 2010, Mr Shaikh was arrested as the Federal Investigation Agency lodged nine different FIRs against him, other management officers and private persons and initiated investigation.
In 2012, the investigation of these cases was transferred to NAB to “transparently collect evidence” against the officers and private beneficiaries of such monetary gains through corrupt practices and corruption.
Defence counsel contended that out of 900 dealers nominated in the present case, only 20 were selected under the pick and choose formula by the investigating agencies, which did not hold any proper independent investigation.
They further contended that there were glaring contradictions in the case of the prosecution, thus they pleaded to the court to acquit their clients of the “fabricated” charges.
On the other hand, public prosecutor Dr Raja Mohammad Ali argued that the prosecution had sufficient evidence to connect the accused persons with the commissioning of the alleged offence and pleaded to punish them according to the law.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2021