Expressing a lack of confidence in the sluggish progress of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in the long-pending Pakistan Steel Mills case, the apex court on Wednesday transferred the investigation to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The Supreme Court also issued a contempt of court notice to Interior Minister Rehman Malik for his interference in the investigation of a case that involves some Rs26.5 billion.
“We felt that attempts to divert fair and honest investigation were also made by the Ministry of Interior (Malik) by appointing a joint investigation team (JIT) despite the fact that the matter was sub judice before this court and the FIA was carrying out the investigation under the directions of this court,” the court’s detailed order stated.
The minister is to appear in the court after two weeks.
Meanwhile, the three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, directed FIA’s director-general (DG) to hand over all investigation records collected and prepared by his agency to the NAB chairman.
According to a forensic audit report conducted by an independent audit firm, the Pakistan Steel Mills has fallen victim to unprecedented levels of corruption. The report showed a breakup of its losses: Business losses amounted to Rs4.68 billion, losses due to corruption were Rs9.99 billion and losses due to mismanagement and negligence were Rs11.84 billion.
The judgment authored by Justice Tariq Parvez highlighted the importance of ‘modern technology and machinery’ for the progress of a nation. The verdict also discussed the phenomenon of corruption in detail.
It reiterated that the investigation by the FIA had so far failed to pinpoint the real beneficiaries operating under the garb of Abbas Steel Group.
The order read: “The purpose of the present proceedings is not to punish someone but to secure recovery of the looted money, which has been plundered by the persons prima facie connected with the commission of the offence and if their cases are sent up for trial before the court of competent jurisdiction, they shall be held responsible in accordance with law.”
The Supreme Court mentioned in its order that the FIA had been filing either preliminary or incomplete reports and had never filed any satisfactory final report. “We do not find any serious effort on part of the FIA towards prosecution of the cases…”
The verdict held that the entire investigation appeared to be casual and not final-result oriented. “We do not find any conclusive report prepared by the FIA.” The court also questioned former FIA DG Waseem Ahmad’s conduct in the case.
Directions for NAB chairman
“Consequently, NAB’s chairman is directed to supervise/appoint a team of honest and upright officers under his administration to further probe the mega scam of losses of more than Rs26 billion, which pertains only to one financial year 2008-2009,” the court held in its order. “Further ensure the arrest of the accused who have been declared absconders or who may be found involved in the case,” the court directed NAB’s chairman.
NAB was ordered to complete the exercise within a period of three months, with the submission of fortnightly report about progress of the investigation/inquiry. After the Rental Power Projects case, this is second high-profile case which has been transferred to the NAB in less then two months.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.