KARACHI: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Monday took into custody former Sindh Minister, Sharjeel Inam Memon, and ten other accused in a multibillion-rupee corruption case from outside the Sindh High Court (SHC) after the high court rejected their interim bail.
“NAB Karachi today arrested eleven accused persons wanted in Reference No. 50/2016, consequent upon cancellation of their ad interim bails by Sindh High Court,” confirmed a spokesman for the NAB Karachi soon after the former minister was taken by Rangers and NAB team into custody from outside the Sindh High Court.
Earlier, the minister remained inside the courtroom for several hours and tried to get his bail extended by filing a review petition in SHC, which was rejected by the Chief Justice SHC.
“The accused persons are charged for embezzlement of Rs. 5,766,479,766 purportedly paid to seven advertising agencies for awareness campaigns between 2013 and 2015,” a handout issued by NAB reads, adding that the accused persons jointly and severally in connivance with each other have been alleged for awarding the contracts to favor certain advertising agencies and to their own favor, in violation of relevant laws and rules and against exorbitant rates.
The accused also include former then Secretary Information & Archives Department Zulfiqar Ali Shalwani and Umar Shahzad, a Proprietor of not so known Daily Milan, which had got the money through fake advertisements.
Earlier, the paramilitary Rangers and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials remained standing outside the court for several hours waiting for Sharjeel Inam Memon to come out of the court, which after dismissing his bail plea in the Rs 6billion graft case ordered his immediate arrest.
Soon after the judged ordered to dismiss interim bail Memon decided to challenge the SHC order in the Supreme Court to evade arrest, but that didn’t happen.
Memon remained inside courtroom till 5pm but had to come out ultimately after the court time ended. As soon as he came out of the court the Rangers and NAB officials waiting outside took him into custody amid high drama.
Earlier in the day, a two-judge bench of the Sindh High Court, headed by SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh, had rejected the PPP leader’s bail application along with the applications of 12 others accused.
The PPP leader, who returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile in March this year, obtained protective bail in April in connection with an inquiry initiated by the top graft buster.
Memon had fled to Dubai in 2015 after NAB launched a crackdown against allegedly corrupt political figures and bureaucrats as part of the Karachi operation.
The anti-graft watchdog later filed a reference in the accountability court regarding alleged corruption in the advertisements campaign of the provincial information department.
In a previous hearing of the case, NAB had said that it had investigated corruption and corrupt practices in the award of advertisements against the law and at exorbitant rates to TV channels and FM radio stations for various awareness campaigns between July 2013 and June 2015, It said it had found that the accused acted with the connivance of each other, resulting in losses to the national exchequer.
The Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inaam Memon, who has been badly failed to project the positive works done by PPP’s Sindh government, has used his brain otherwise and to plunder the taxpayers’ money, The Frontier Post rep0rted in September 2013.
The Sindh Information Department (SID) has been publishing good quality two monthly magazines of 60-page each, namely “Izhar” (Urdu) and “Pegham” (Sindhi) since 1970s but the Sindh Information Minister during the last months of previous PPP’s provincial government launched 28-page weekly magazine “Sindh Manzar”, apparently in order to plunder yet through another mean the taxpayers’ money, which is supposed to be spent on their welfare, sources in Sindh Information Department told this correspondent.
The Bungalow in affluent Clifton which is being acquired on rent for a 26-page magazine
Whereas the staff of two magazines is conveniently being stationed in the magazine rooms inside the office of Sindh Director Publication, Yasmeen Memon, the idea was floated to acquire on rent a double-story bungalow in upper class Clifton neighborhood for starting a below average magazine which could have been published with facilities already at the disposal of Sindh Information Department.
If it was not enough the Minister got approved rent almost on double amount and paid in millions as security deposit from the public exchequer to the owner through an estate agency allegedly owned by a PPP leader, sources privy to the deal told.
Sources in the SID told that unlike the old magazines all payments including the house rents and utility bills were paid by the Sindh Finance Department directly on the directions from influential minister who is close to Sharjeel Memon, the Sindh Information Minister.
The sources further told that though Director Publication, Yasmeen Memon was incharge of all publications, she had least say in the affairs of Sindh Manzar which is controlled from “elsewhere”. When this scribe visited her office for acquiring her version, Yaseem Memon had left the office while phone contacts also yielded no results.
When this correspondent showed the Bungalow to a well-known estate agent of the affluent locality he told on the condition of anonymity that the rent for house may be at least half of the rent paid to the owner. He further told that when the rent increases the amount of security deposit also automatically increases, putting the load of millions of Rupees on the public exchequer being run on loans from foreign banks and monitory institutions.
It is also relevant to mention that different quarters have been alleging the Sindh Information Ministry of large scale corruption. A year earlier, the PML-N leader, Syed Nihal Hashmi had accused that Sharjeel Inam Memon was actively involved in corruption in his department.