HYDERABAD: Sindh government’s joint interrogation team (JIT) has made a major headway in its investigation into the Matiari land acquisition scam when it was able to ensure recovery of Rs420m out of the around Rs2b missing funds released by the National Highway Authority for the Hyderabad-Sukkur M6 project.
It happens to be first major recovery of cash (the first one being a paltry Rs1.2m) out of the allegedly embezzled funds deposited by the NHA into the account of Matiari deputy commissioner Adnan Rasheed, who is currently in custody. The Anti-Corruption Establishment has obtained his remand. The amount of Rs1.2m was earlier recovered from DC House.
Adnan Rasheed – an officer of the Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS) – was arrested on Nov 17 soon after disclosure of facts by a two-member fact-finding committee formed by the Sindh chief secretary on Nov 13.
The four-member JIT formed separately interrogated Adnan Rasheed on Monday and was finally able to recover Rs420m on the basis of his disclosures. DIGs Khadim Rind and Irfan Ali Baloch are part of the JIT, headed by ACE chairman Nawaz Shaikh. The fourth member is ACE Sindh director Shahzad Fazal.
Withdrawn amount recovered from AC’s official residence on tip-off from held official
“The JIT members are hopeful that more recoveries will be made since the interim pre- arrest bails granted to then assistant commissioner and Sindh Bank’s area manager were not confirmed on Monday by the court concerned,” said an official.
The committee headed by Sindh home secretary Dr Saeed Magnejo which is looking into the other details of the scam has already submitted its report to Sindh government.
When contacted, Chief Secretary Dr Sohail Rajput told Dawn over phone that Rs2.3bn funds were released for land acquisition and drawn from Sindh Bank in cash.
It is revealed during the investigation that out of Rs2.3bn, Rs556m was paid to those people whose lands were acquired and Rs420m has just been located and recovered, according to Dr Rajput. Hence, he added, cumulatively Rs976m stood accounted for.
“Still we believe that Rs556m said to have been paid to landowners needs detailed verification insofar as the point of accuracy is concerned,” he said.
It is learnt that another amount of Rs600m is available in profit bearing accounts of Sindh Bank which would take the total amount available with government in one or the other way to Rs1,600m.
Recovery was disclosed in court
The recovery of Rs420m was disclosed by the ACE police when they sought cancellation of interim pre-arrest bail of former Saeedabad assistant commissioner/land acquisition officer (LAO) Mansoor Abbasi and Sindh Bank’s area manager Tabish Shah.
ACE officials told the court that the amount was recovered from the official residence of the AC located upstairs his office in Saeedabad. The same has been shown on record through a memo of recovery during proceedings of the case before special judge of anti-corruption (provincial), according to special prosecutor Mazhar Ali Siyal.
He said Tabish Shah facilitated arrangement of funds for these transactions as usually such a huge amount was not available all the time with a branch. He added that this amount was withdrawn through bearer cheques and upon submission of letters by Mansoor Abbasi.
Prosecutor Siyal said that Abbasi was the sole account-holder where the funds were transferred from another account. He informed court that the amount of Rs420m was recovered from the AC’s residence at the pointation of former Matiari DC. He said that the AC could draw only Rs500,000 from Sindh Bank’s branch in a month but Rs2.28bn was drawn by way of cash for land acquisition.
ACE’s jurisdiction questioned
Abbasi’s counsel, Yusuf Leghari contended that reports of relevant forums for granting permission to lodge a case against Abbasi were not brought on record. He argued that funds were transferred by the NHA -- a federal agency -- while cognizance was taken by the ACE, which was a provincial agency. He further argued that requirements of Efficiency and Disciplinary Rules (E&D) were not met as well. He said that ACE had in fact intruded in the domain of the federal government by lodging a case which was purely of banking circle nature that could only be dealt with by the FIA.
Mansoor Abbasi and Tabish Shah were granted interim pre-arrest bails by court, which did not confirm the same on Monday. Upon cancellation of their bails, they were taken into custody by ACE officials present in court. ACE had lodged a case vide crime No. 5/22.
FIA has not yet registered any case pertaining to suspicious transaction in Matiari lands’ acquisition as it had done in the case of such transactions for Naushahro Feroze lands.
The Sindh government committee is still conducting inquiries into disbursement of Rs3.61bn in Naushahro Feroze for the same M6 project. FIA has incorporated fact-finding report of Sindh government’s committee and NHA general manger Parkash Lohano’s complaint in its FIR.
The then Naushahro Feroze DC Tashfeen Alam had proceeded abroad without seeking government’s permission before the scam surfaced. He has been placed under suspension.
Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2022
Dear visitor, the comments section is undergoing an overhaul and will return soon.