Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim was the focus point during the Supreme Court’s proceedings into the multi-billion scam of the National Insurance Company Limited on Thursday.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, expressed disappointment over Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Sindh Director Muazzam Jah’s and Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood’s reluctance to investigate Makhdoom of Hala’s alleged misappropriation of funds.
The court reprimanded both officials and directed them to follow the set procedure of investigation as followed in various judgments of the apex court.
Chief Justice Chaudhry ordered the FIA to provide copies of Amin Fahim’s recorded statement to the registrar or the court’s assistant.
He said that the commerce minister had given a statement, claiming he was not aware about any transactions made under his name, adding that his manager, Ahsan, managed his financial matters. However, if the prime minister of the country could be penalised for not fulfilling his responsibility, then why should a minister be spared, the chief justice asked rhetorically.
The court also ordered the submission of a report entailing the details of transactions made under the scam, as well as an explanation as to why an illegal summary, signed by Fahim, was forwarded to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for approval.
During the proceedings, Jah submitted that three cases were lodged against the loss of Rs490 million to the NICL, while adding that the entire amount was recovered.
He informed the court that Rs40.05 million was transferred to Amin Fahim’s family’s joint account, shared by his son Jaliluz Zaman and his wife Rizwana Amin Fahim.
The amount, he added, was obtained after selling a plot to Khawaja Akbar Butt. However, when Butt failed to clear the outstanding amount, the sale deed was challenged by Amin Fahim in the Sindh High Court and the court subsequently annulled it.
The court was informed that Amin Fahim returned Rs40.05 million to Khawaja Akbar Butt, the front man of one of the main accused, the late Zafar Saleemi. It was further informed that the FIA had deposited the amount back into the commerce ministry.
The court, however, remained unsatisfied and said that the investigation process should not have been stopped there.
The chief justice ordered that it should be found out why the money was taken and returned.
“Since you are an investigator, it is your responsibility to investigate all aspects instead of relying on the justification of the accused minister,” Chief Justice Chaudhry told Jah.
NICL chairman’s appointment
The court also issued notices to the former and incumbent chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), seeking an explanation as to why Ayaz Khan Niazi was appointed as NICL Chairman in violation of the Insurance Ordinance, 2012.
The commerce secretary told the court that Niazi was appointed at a time when his predecessor Salman Ghani, who is now retired, was in office. The chief justice remarked, “So what if he has retired; he is still alive and taking pension from the national exchequer.” He added that anyone responsible for wrong appointments should be held accountable.
Justice Jawwad maintained that the government is not authorised to appoint “an incompetent person” to head any institution.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2012.