Issue No 61, Sept 28-Oct 10, 2003 | ISSN:1684-2057 | satribune.com

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Musharraf's NAB Itself Faces Corruption Charges for Gobbling up Millions

Special SAT Report

ISLAMABAD: General Pervez Musharraf’s main arm-twisting tool, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), is itself being investigated for a mega fraud into the use and safe-keeping of hundreds of millions of rupees recovered from criminals and plunderers through plea bargains.

The Chief NAB Investigator, who has been pitching a number of international institutions for netting Opposition politicians, including Benazir Bhutto in the Swiss courts, is facing a reference accused of embezzlement of hundreds of millions of rupees of plea bargain money on which the NAB officials have been gobbling up mark ups in private accounts.

According to the NAB website, during past three years the NAB has entered into 181 cases of plea-bargain through accepted court process and recovered an amount of US$36 million, out of the total amount recovered of over US$1.5 billion. The entire process of this recovery has been effected through accountability courts with defendants who pleaded guilty and who besides paying the said amount stand debarred from holding public office for ten years along with other disqualifications.

But the NAB top brass, also facing charges of involvement in this case, is attempting to hush up the inquiry.

Over the past two years or so, these officials have been retaining the plea bargain money extracted from politicians and bureaucrats for allowing them out-of-court settlement in cases framed against them. The biggest of these was the case of Admiral Mansur ul Haq, the former Navy Chief, who coughed up over US$ 7 million.

The recovered money has been kept in the NAB officials’ private bank accounts though their details have been noted secretly at the NAB headquarters in Islamabad. The money is largely spent on "sources" and informants who assist the NAB in netting the people listed on account of political and other affiliation to organizations that are active against the military government.

Officials "tasking" these sources and informants to projects normally draw up the "targets" and budget the sending with the prior permission of Chief Investigator Financial Crimes, NAB.

The man on this assignment, Talat Ghumman, a former Union Bank official engaged by the NAB for carrying out investigations against the "targets" is now reported to be in trouble on account of a recent fraud based on misuse of the plea bargain money.

NAB insiders revealed to SA Tribunethat about three months ago there was panic at the NAB headquarters over a tiny piece of news item appearing in an Islamabad Urdu daily that indicated some "hanky panky" at NAB in handling the plea bargain money.

"They started an inquiry at the highest levels to determine as to who leaked the lead to the newspaper. This inquiry was inconclusive when the NAB top bosses directed the relevant sections of the Bureau to draft a court reference against the staff that had been keeping the plea bargain money in their accounts. This reference is currently being drafted, but it is not clear whether they would actually send it to the court", said a NAB official.

He added that the reference framing was ordered as the government (may be high military hierarchy) came to know of the fraud through the news item and asked the NAB chief, Gen Munir Hafiz, to look into the matter.

Talat Ghumman is reported to have deferred sending of the reference to the court, according to NAB sources. They added that Ghumman, who happens to be second only to the NAB chief, told his boss that he himself wanted to first conclude an in-house inquiry on what actually happened.
Sources claim that it was him who had initially proposed to NAB that such private accounts be run to keep the plea bargain money and NAB informants protected from scrutiny.

He is already facing FIA inquiry into his own bank accounts as he is known to be one of the top spendthrifts in the federal capital, throwing parties on regular basis at which the country’s elite is reportedly offered all kinds of "ayyashi" (perverse pleasures), including strip dances by professionals from the red-light areas of the country.

Running private bank accounts on the plea bargain money that is retained by the NAB for funding investigations is illegal in the first place, and the surfacing of a fraud based on extracting mark up on this money has shaken the entire edifice of the institution that was basically set up to prevent and help punish financial frauds in the country.

Once it becomes known that NAB has been conducting itself at this sorry level, the investigations it has carried out against politicians would be running into jeopardy on credibility grounds.

The Opposition politicians in Pakistan have been complaining against NAB for its dubious conduct wherein it spent millions to trumped up cases against them to publicly malign them and damage their reputation.

The writer of this report is a former senior bureaucrat who remained part of NAB investigations till recently

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