SC expresses concern over NAB’s approach in OGRA case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its concern over the National Accountability Bureau approach towards the prime accused Tauqeer Sadiq, former chairman Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and others and observed that it appeared, everyone was making out all efforts to save the accused from conviction.

It directed the Prosecutor General (PG) NAB Karim Khan Agha to ensure that no lacunas should be left for the extradition of former OGRA chief from the United Arab Emirates because such hurdles would facilitate the absconding accused to stay away from the reach of authorities in Pakistan.

A two-Judge bench of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain resumed hearing of implementation issue of its November 12, 2011 decision on the illegal appointment of Tauqeer Sadiq in which it also found him responsible for causing a colossal loss to the national exchequer amounting to Rs22 billion.

During course of proceedings, KK Agha apprised the bench that for unearthing any undue favours by the NAB officials towards former OGRA chief, an impartial investigation officer from Balochistan had been appointed under the instructions of the chairman NAB.

Replying to bench’s query, he said that the investigation officer would submit his finding with regard to internal affairs within a period of three weeks.

Expressing his optimism, he said that the external issues involved in this case would also be dealt with in accordance with the NAB mandate.

He said that the authorities in UAE had expressed their objection over the translation of file moved for Tauqeer’s extradition. He said that the documents which had been alleged to have been missing were in the said file. Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja told him that the bench had been asking the NAB to get legal opinion of a local counsel there to overcome all the shortcomings.

He remarked that the absconding accused had been throwing bouncers upon NAB and instead of playing them, it had been sitting idle.

He said that they could not speculate about the nature of case in UAE but the concerned authorities should have put their all out efforts. To bench’s query, Nasrullah, an officer of the ministry of foreign affairs, apprised the bench that the Government of Pakistan had reached an extradition treaty with UAE during the year 2007.

Khawaja Haris, an amicus curiae, drew attention of the bench towards, Article 7 of the treaty and said that it clearly mentioned the requirements for extradition of a wanted person.

Justice Khawaja observed that for the last many hearing, they had been asking the NAB and ministry of foreign affairs to have legal opinion from the local counsel in UAE. “Simple things are not being done in proper way,” he added.

The Court there should also be informed through the NAB that the accused who had committed offence in Pakistan, also violated the UAE laws, he added.

Khawaja Haris, former advocate general Punjab further maintained that the authorities might have bona fide in their intentions but the lack of coordination was evident in the case.

Justice Khawaja said that the prime responsibility fell upon the NAB, “It is an irony and beyond my comprehension that an accused person who had been sitting in NAB Headquarters, was not arrested.” Everyone was bending backwards to avoid any conviction of the accused, he added.

The NAB PG said that Tauqeer’s passport had been cancelled and he was now alien in the UAE, so he could be tried and sentenced for such offence. Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja questioned as to why teams after teams had been sent to UAE.

Waqas Ahmed, investigation officer, apprised the bench that their 24 days stay in UAE and other expenditures cost them 29,000 Dirhams which was paid by their department.

He said that the total expenditure could amount to 60,000 Dirhams so far, including the translation cost etc. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain in lighter vein remarked that the accused in UAE should be asked to pay the amount out of the total embezzled money. The amicus curiae further contended that under Pakistan’s own

Extradition Act 1974, the accused did not require to be served upon with a perpetual arrest warrant.
Justice Jawwad observed that they could not influence the UAE court but could ask the institutions like NAB to perform their duties in accordance with law.

“The agility to swiftly persecute the accused is lacking in NAB,” he added. The bench adjourned further hearing till April 3, and directed the PG to also submit a report regarding granting of pardon to Shahzad Saleem, another accused, by the chairman NAB under the NAB Ordinance.