SC issues notices to 222 beneficiaries of written-off loans

The Nation

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court on Sunday served notices on 222 beneficiaries who had illegally got their loans written off.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar issued the notices while hearing a suo motu case related to waiving of Rs54 billion loans during the government of former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

Heading a two-member bench, the chief justice made it clear that all the people who got their loans written off illegally on a political basis or otherwise would have to return their loans to the national exchequer.

During the hearing, additional attorney general informed the court that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor has submitted a summary of the report of the ‘commission on loans write-off’.

Justice Nisar noted that according to the summary, 222 people got their loans written off illegally. He issued notices to all such people directing them to personally appear before the court on June 8. He also said that action would also be taken against all those who illegally waived off the loans.

At the previous hearing, the chief justice had said that assets of those people who were unable to return the illegally waived off loans will be auctioned.

Former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had taken the suo moto notice of the write-off loans after a press report, based on a secret report to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, had stated that 50,427 defaulters, including political leaders, civil and military business concerns and business tycoons of Karachi, Lahore and other cities were favoured through the ‘loans write-off scheme’.

The report had named former chief ministers of two provinces as beneficiaries of the scheme as their families having big businesses like sugar mills and ghee mills, respectively, also got a waiver. Some foreign firms and multinational companies and a private bus service operating from Lahore to different cities in Punjab were also extended the facility.

Soon after October 2002 elections, the then finance minister Shaukat Aziz and his team at the SBP approved the loan write-off scheme after succumbing to pressure from certain top leaders of the ruling party to ease the financial burden on their business concerns, the press report had stated.

The SBP issued an incentive scheme to the banks and DFIs in October 2002 for waiving off the non-performing loans of organizations showing ‘loss’ for three years or more. Three categories were made to deal with the cases: category A of loans up to Rs500,000, category B from Rs500,000 to Rs2.5 million and category C of non-performing loans of more than Rs2.5 million.

The report also said that big business companies exploited the third category to get billions of rupees outstanding against them written off. On the other hand, the banks and DFIs were asked to recover the maximum possible amount to settle loans falling under categories B and C through the forced sale of available assets.

The purpose of the scheme was stated to be to clean the balance-sheets of the banks and DFIs. As a result of the scheme, the banks and DFIs settled cases involving an outstanding amount of Rs80.656 billion.

Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau on Sunday arrested former chairman National Insurance Company Limited Ayaz Khan Niazi in a mega land scam after the apex court ruled that he should be dealt as per law.

During the hearing, NAB Additional Prosecutor General Akbar Tarar told the court that Niazi was granted bail by the Special Judge Central Karachi and not accountability courts, where references against him in the land scam had been pending since 2014.

At this, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar directed the NAB officials to proceed in the case in accordance with the law. The NAB officials took him into custody outside of courtroom No 1 after the hearing.

The Supreme Court also directed NAB courts to decide the cases against Niazi and other accused were pending within two months and asked the NAB to arrest Mohsin Habib Warriach as well.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Saqib Nisar and Justice Mushir Alam issued these directives while hearing the case of non-implementation of apex court judgment in the NICL scam.

In its November 2013 verdict, the apex court had directed the NAB chairman to have all these cases transferred from the FIA to his file and proceed in accordance with law, take necessary steps for the recovery of outstanding amount and arrest Mohsin Warraich, Amin Qasim Dada etc, as early as possible.

The court judgment had declared the appointment of Ayaz Khan Niazi as NICL chairman contrary to section 12 of the Insurance Ordinance, 2000 and rules framed thereunder as non-transparent, illegal and unwarranted.

During the hearing, CJP Nisar expressed his anger over the delay in deciding the references against the accused by the NAB and said why the references were not decided and what the NAB had been doing since the filing of the reference and why had not presented its witnesses.

NAB Additional Prosecutor Akbar informed the bench that Mohsin Warriach was still an absconder, adding that efforts were being made to arrest him. The chief justice said that if Rao Anwar – a controversial officer of Sindh police – can be recovered on court orders, why NAB cannot apprehend Moshin Warriach if he is in Pakistan.

The prosecutor also said that the ex-chairman and others were involved in purchasing properties in Lahore, Karachi and Dubai at exorbitant rates.

Akbar informed the court that in Lahore, 20 kanal at the airport road was purchased at Rs1.06 billion, 10 acres in Korangi Karachi at Rs900 million and also bought an apartment in Dubai.

He said that in the accountability court Lahore, the references have been filed against 10 persons including Niazi, while in NAB court Karachi, there were 13 accused including former Federal Minister Commerce late Makhdom Ameen Fahim, Secretary Commerce Salman Ghani, Ayaz Khan Niazi and Amin Qasim Dada. The prosecutor further said that in Karachi land scam, the NAB has recovered Rs490 million out of Rs900 million.

Earlier, Niazi informed the bench that before joining the NICL, he was working as a senior director at Standard Chartered Bank in Dubai. “I have done BBA in Economics and Finance,” he added. To this, the chief justice asked from him whether he had opened Casino or a hotel in Dubai, which he denied.

The chief justice further asked him what relation he had with Makhdom Ameen Fahim. The CJP told the ex-chief NICL that he has all the information about him.

About his appointment as chairman NICL, he apprised the bench that in February 2009, he returned to Pakistan and submitted his CV to the Ministry of Commerce adding that the then secretary of the ministry had interviewed him and selected him for the slot of chairman NICL.

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