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Govt officials, rules violations by bank behind fraud: report

By Imdad Soomro
November 22, 2022

KARACHI: A fact-finding committee, constituted by the Sindh government to probe a fraud of over Rs2 billion in land acquisition for a motorway project in Matiari district, found the act of Sindh Bank of opening an official account without the mandatory permission of the provincial finance department and disbursing billions in cash through open cheques without ascertaining the identity of the persons as gross violation of the rules and a major cause of embezzlement.

Matiri Deputy Commissioner Adnan Rashid has been arrested by the Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment in the case of embezzlement of Rs2.37 billion; however, the main suspect, assistant commissioner and land acquisition officer Mansoor Abbasi has obtained protective bail of seven days from the Sindh High Court.

According to the report of the committee (a copy of which is available with The News), Sindh Bank, in which a fresh official account was opened in the name of the land acquisition officer, had not obtained permission from the Sindh finance department which is mandatory under the regulation 1(21) of the anti-money laundering law and combating terror financing.

The Sindh government had constituted a four-member joint inspection team comprising Muhammad Nawaz Shaikh, Chairman Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment, Shahzad Fazal Abbasi, Director Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment, Irfan Baloch, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) South, Karachi, and Khadim Rind, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Crime Branch Sindh, to probe the matter.

On November 17, Sindh Anti-Corruption officials of Hyderabad Zone arrested Deputy Commissioner Matiari Adnan Rashid in the case. A team of the Hyderabad anti-corruption department also searched the DC House and sized documents.

As the issue surfaced, the Sindh government immediately suspended DC Adnan Rashid and Assistant Commissioner New Saeedabad, Mansoor Abbasi, who is also a major suspect in the case as land accusation officer. Adnan Rashid was produced before Special Anti-Corruption Court, Hyderabad, which granted his physical remand. However, the major suspect, AC Saeed Abad Manzoor Ali, could not be apprehended as he has obtained protective bail from the Sindh High Court.

Sources in the Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment told The News that the JIT would also investigate the probable involvement of the district’s famous political family in the case. Aslam Pirzada, Coordinator of Sindh Revenue Minister Makhdoom Memboob Zaman, has obtained pre-arrest bail from the Sindh High Court to avoid arrest.

As per the initial investigation, instead of payment to land­owners by cross-cheques, the amount was drawn by different dummy persons. According to official papers, a saving account was opened in Sindh Bank Matiari in the name of ‘Deputy Commissioner Land Acquisition’ and the National Highway Authority and initially Rs1.35 billion was deposited and then Rs. 2.706 billion in the account. On October 14, the deputy commissioner directed the Sindh Bank branch to open another account in the name of ‘Land Acquisition Officer Matiari’ and nominated Assistant Commissioner Mansoor Ali as signatory and the same day Rs. 4.092 billion was transferred to the account from his account.

An amount of Rs. 2.149 billion was withdrawn from the new account of Land Acquisition Officer Mansoor Ali through 438 open cheques from October 17, to November 11, (26 days) and Rs1.943 billion was left in the account.

Assistant Commissioner Mansoor Ali Abbasi was appointed Land Acquisition Officer (LAO) for acquiring land for the Motorway’s Sukkur-Hyderabad (M-6) project by the Hyderabad commissioner on October 11; on the next day DC Matiari Adnan Rashid managed a new account in his name and transferred the funds to the new account.

Investigations further revealed that on November 15, NHA asked LAO Mansoor Ali Abbasi to provide details of all disbursements to land owners but he avoided to share the details as he allegedly embezzled a big amount.

Member of National Assembly of district Matiari, Makhdoom Jameel Zaman, on the seventh death anniversary of his fathery Makhdoom Amin Faheem, rejected the accusation of involvement of his family in the fraud and demanded a fair probe by the Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment, NAB or FIA.

This reporter called the area manager of Hyderabad zone of Sindh Bank and then sent him a detailed message for his version on the issue, but he did not respond. When contacted, spokesman for the Sindh chief minister, Rasheed Channa said Sindh Bank had also initiated an inquiry into the issue and the JIT would investigate Sindh Bank officials besides the Sindh government officials. “The CM has directed the JIT and Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment for an impartial and fair investigation into the case,” he added.