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Senior NAB official defends plea bargain provision

ISLAMABAD: Defending the controversial provision of plea bargain in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, a senior official of the National Accounta­bility Bureau (NAB) has said that it is the only law in the country for the swift recovery of plundered wealth.

“A plea bargain is the quickest way for the recovery of looted wealth and its return to victims of white-collar crimes,” NAB Rawal­pindi’s Director General Irfan Naeem Mangi said while addressing the third Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corrup­tion Summit, 2019, organised by an Islamabad-based NGO, Corporate Resear­ch and Investigations, at a local hotel here on Tuesday.

Mr Mangi is the head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) currently investigating the fake bank accounts case against former president Asif Ali Zardari, other leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and property tycoon Malik Riaz. He was also a member of the JIT formed by the Supreme Court to investigate the Panama Papers case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“It is a thorny issue and everyone criticises the plea bargain provision without understanding it,” the NAB official said.

He said a plea bargain was usually availed by those accused who did not want to go to jail, but ready to return the looted money. “People have a wrong perception about the plea bargain provision as they do not know that those availing it are considered guilty and they do not hold public office and operate bank accounts for 10 years,” he added.

Backing the plea bargain provision in the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, Mr Mangi criticised the country’s judicial system and said: “You are well aware that our legal process may take five to 10 years in finalising a case and victims of white-collar crimes cannot get their money back till disposal of their cases.”

In reply to a question, he claimed that none of the NAB officials had got benefit in the plea bargain deals.

The NAB director general apprised the audience through slides show how corruption affects common people in their daily life. He referred to a case of wheat embezzlement in Sehwan and showed decaying heaps of wheat bags in a godown. He said poor people in the area were starving and the owner of the godown did not provide them even a partly amount of wheat.

Answering a question about money laundering committed by some dual nationality holder Pakista­nis and difficulties faced by NAB while getting information about them from any other state, Mr Mangi said although Pakistan had signed mutual legal assistance deals with many countries, it was quite difficult to get such information from other countries.

He said there were some corruption cases in which women were also involved.

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