NAB needs Saudi-styled powers’

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National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has said if he is given the powers, which are available to the anti-corruption authorities in Saudi Arabia, he can bring back all the looted money in shortest possible time.

The Saudi authorities took four weeks to recover the looted wealth and he would accomplish the task in just three weeks, he claimed while addressing traders and manufacturers at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) here on Thursday.

“Times have changed. Now even those corrupt people have been sent behind the bars about whom nobody had ever imagined so,” Javed Iqbal said adding everybody would have to reap what he would sow.

The NAB chief said cases of business community pertaining to income tax and sales tax would be referred to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as tax evasion was different from money-laundering.

He said money-laundering was a crime and the Supreme Court of Pakistan had also sent a number of such cases to NAB in the past, adding that the Bureauhad always filed references after thorough investigation. He said he had received no complaint against NAB officials from any trader during the past five months.

The chairman said various cases regarding Panama scandal were in progress as the Bureau had set its goal to make Pakistan corruption-free, adding that NAB was a people-friendly institution. He said action on cases of Panama has been accelerated after receiving record and information from foreign countries.

Javed Iqbal said a committee comprising representatives of various chambers of commerce and industry of the country has been formed to redress their issues and grievances. He dispelled an impression that the business community was suffering due to NAB and said that watchdog would not be a cause of disruption for them in their businesses. The business community should not worry due to the NAB actions, he assured.

Javed Iqbal said NAB did not directly take action on bank default cases, but the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) sends such cases to it. He said that NAB had never interfered with bank default cases unless a bank referred them a case, which they failed to settle with their clients through negotiations.

The NAB chief said the Bureau officials were performing their duties to implement the law without any pressure, influence or threat. To redress traders’ complaints, a special desk had been set up at the NAB headquarters, he said and added that special desks had also been set up t regional offices of the watchdog. The chairman said that during the last 28 days, no complaint was registered by business community, whereas the NAB officials have been directed to redress the complaints of business community within 24 hours, adding that NAB had taken the initiative for facilitating traders, who were contributing a lot to the national economy.

The chairman stressed that NAB believed in performing its responsibilities as per law after consultations with business community for promoting business activities in the country and said that it had not initiated any tax evasion case since October 2017, whereas no tax evasion case would be started by NAB in future as such cases would be referred to the FBR, he added.

He said that business community played a vital role in country’s progress and development, adding that prosperous trader would help in putting the country on way to progress and prosperity.

The chairman said that NAB, since its inception, had recovered Rs342 billion from the corrupt elements and deposited into national exchequer. He added that during the last 22 months, Rs71 billion had been recovered from the corrupt elements.

He said NAB respected the self-respect of accused during investigation of cases, adding that the Bureau was investigating the cases of money-laundering against those who had nothing in 1980s and now they were having properties in Dubai without any money trail, he added.

Javed Iqbal said action was being taken against the owners of private housing societies as they looted the savings of poor people. These societies neither gave plots to people nor returned their money, he added.

He said it was a challenging task to investigate white-collar crimes as it was difficult to trace the links with the case, while it was needed to have an agreement pertaining access to information from foreign countries. NAB would not spare those who looted the poor people’s money, adding that it would trace them for recovering the looted money and return it to the victims.

The chairman said NAB had no affiliation with any party, group or individual as it focused on the case and not on face. NAB was investigating cases against those who ruled the country for 35 years, he said adding that even such culprits were behind the bars now about whom nobody had even imagined so. However, he said NAB had never liked to overstep its jurisdiction.

He said NAB’s version and performance should also be considered and analysed while conducting programme against it on the media. The chairman said action against influenced mafia was continuing due to which NAB had to face criticism, but the action against such mafia would continue without any discrimination.

Later, the business community appreciated the performance of NAB under the leadership of its chairman Javed Iqbal and said that they would continue playing their role for national prosperity and development.

Regarding plea bargain, he said there could be no plea bargain until he gave an approval for it, elaborating that initially the accused was asked to read the plea bargain application in his senses before signing it. However, if the accused did not agree to the terms and conditions of the plea bargain, he was sent on judicial remand, instead of NAB custody.

NAB Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem, SAARC Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik, FPCCI Senior Vice President Abdur Rauf and others were also present.