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March 15, 2019

Former LDA chief acquitted in graft case


March 15, 2019

An accountability court acquitted on Thursday former director-general Agha Maqsood Abbas and director finance Abdul Ghani Jokhio of the Lyari Development Authority (LDA) in a graft case involving around a billion rupees filed by the National Accountability Bureau.

The Accountability Court-III judge, Dr Sher Bano Karim, while pronouncing the verdict, observed that the anti-graft watchdog failed to prove charges against the accused as it could not bring on record incriminating evidence.

Both the officials were accused of misusing their authority and illegally investing Rs1 billion of the LDA funds with a private bank from 2008 to 2011. They were alleged to have caused a loss of Rs53.62 million through this to the national exchequer.

The NAB prosecutor, Zahid Hussain Baladi, argued that Abbas allegedly misusing his authority illegally ordered placing Rs1 billion in My Bank without approval of the board of directors which was the competent authority to allow such a thing.

He added that firstly the investment was made in direct violation of the LDA Act, 1993, and, secondly, the then DG despite knowing that the National Bank of Pakistan was offering a higher interest rate on the amount did not withdraw the investment for three years.

He said that Jokhio was required to ensure merit and transparency in respect of all the financial matters of the LDA in accordance with the prevailing financial practices, laws, rules and regulations.

He added that the accused, however, failed to ensure that and misused his authority by giving undue benefit to the private bank. The defence counsel, Amir Raza Naqvi for Abbas and Shabih Ishrat for Jokhio, denied the allegations, contending that the NAB implicated their client in the case with malafide intentions. They added that the investments were made in good faith and earned the authority profits.

Speaking of bypassing the board of directors’ approval, they said each member of the board approved the investment individually through letters because no board meeting was held during the tenure.

They added that the investment brought a profit at the rate of 10 per cent against the rate from the NBP, which was 6.7 per cent, at that time. The judge, after listening to the arguments, ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove its allegations against the accused persons because of lack of evidence to connect their role with the commission of the offences. The judge acquitted both accused who were already on bail.

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