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Former PSM chairman among six acquitted in Rs81 million graft case

Karachi

February 28, 2021

After a seven-year-long trial, an accountability court on Saturday acquitted a former chairman of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and five others in a Rs81 million corruption case.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had in 2014 filed a reference against former PSM chairman Moin Aftab Sheikh, former principal executive officer Brigadier (retd) Abdul Qayum, former deputy general managers Muhammad Farooq, Imtiaz-ul-Haq, Asghar Ali and Ateeq Khan, former food committee chairman Najamuddin Saho and three contractors, Zahid Ali, Muhammad Atique and Ali Haider, for allegedly colluding to award and obtain canteen contracts at exorbitant rates during 2008-09.

Of the accused, Saho and Asghar were discharged from the case following their demise. Haider reached a plea bargain with NAB and Atique was acquitted by the court on a previous hearing.

Pronouncing the verdict, the accountability court-IV judge, Suresh Kumar, observed that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against the remaining six accused and hence, they were exonerated in view of the benefit of the doubt.

Initially, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had conducted an inquiry into the award of contracts for 19 canteens at the PSM during the aforementioned two years, allegedly on exorbitant subsidy rate amounting to Rs127 million for the 10,113 employees instead of the approved subsidy rate of Rs46 million, after the addition of up to 30% inflation rate in the edible items in comparison to Rs35 million for the preceding fiscal year.

Later, NAB conducted an inquiry which incriminated the officers of the PSM for allegedly misusing their authority and providing unlawful gain to the three private contractors, causing losses of Rs81 million to the national exchequer.

The defence attorneys had claimed innocence on the part of their clients, requesting the court to acquit them of the charges.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor had contended that there was sufficient evidence to prove the allegations against the accused, pleading with the court to punish them strictly in accordance with the law.

The judge had reserved his judgment on a previous hearing after recording the final arguments from both the sides. He noted that contrary to its claims, the prosecution could not prove the offence on the accused.