Sindh High Court on Tuesday granted bail to former provincial information minister Sharjeel Memon in a corruption reference pertaining to the award of advertisements at ‘exorbitant rates’ through the abuse of power.
A National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team had taken the PPP leader and 11 others into custody on Oct 23, 2017 after the Sindh High Court had rejected his bail plea.
Following the rejection of his bail plea at the time, Memon had holed up for hours in the courtroom to avoid arrest as his team explored their options, but could not stave off the inevitable for long.
He was then indicted in February, 2018.
During today’s hearing, the facts of the case were recapped. After this, the court asked if it had been proven that Memon had received kickbacks from the deal with the advertising company.
“It has not been proven that Memon has received kickbacks from the deal,” the investigation officer conceded but added that the former minister had used his position of power in an unjust manner.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the two-member bench — headed by Justice KK Agha and comprising Justice Omar Sial — accepted Memon’s plea and asked the PPP leader to submit a bond worth Rs5 million to procure bail.
Previously, the court had rejected two different applications seeking bail for Memon over the span of his year-and-a-half long confinement.
Assets beyond known income
On Saturday, an accountability court had issued a no-objection certificate for the execution of an arrest warrant for Memon issued by the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau in a new inquiry pertaining to his assets.
NAB said that during an inquiry, the accused was found involved in committing offences punishable under Sections 9(a) of the NAO, 1999 and subsequently the NAB chief issued a warrant for his arrest.
Today, as the SHC gave its verdict on the case, NAB moved an accountability court to procure Memon’s physical remand.
Upon this, the matter was brought to the SHC’s attention and Memon’s lawyer told the court that NAB’s new warrants were based on dishonesty, as the investigation into assets beyond means had begun in December 2018.
“Why had NAB not said anything on the matter since then, and only when the court had approved the bail did the bureau approach an accountability court for a fresh physical remand,” Barrister Khalid Javed said.
“Sharjeel Memon is not going anywhere, he will cooperate in the inquiry,” the lawyer added.
Hearing the arguments, the SHC bench suspended the arrest warrants and said Memon’s name should remain on the Exit Control List.
References against Memon
The National Accountability Bureau had filed a reference in 2016 against the former minister, the then provincial information secretary, deputy directors of the Sindh information department Mansoor Ahmed Rajput, Mohammed Yousuf Kaboro and others for allegedly committing corruption from 2013 to 2015 in awarding advertisements of provincial government’s awareness campaigns in electronic media, causing a loss of around Rs3.27 billion to the national exchequer.
NAB had alleged that pre-qualification was conducted in violation of the Sindh Public Procurement Rules 2010 and the then information minister had illegally approved releasing of advertisements without due competition, costing Rs3,279,177,029 to the national exchequer.
The PPP leader is also facing a separate inquiry regarding illegal adjustment and consolidation of hundreds of acres of land in favour of a private housing project.