Sharjeel’s Absence Delaying Trial In Rs3.2bn Graft Case, SHC Told

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An accountability court on Wednesday informed the Sindh High Court that the absence of former provincial minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, the prime suspect in an over Rs3.2 billion corruption case, was causing a delay in the indictment of the suspects in the case as he was not joining the trial despite grant of bail by the high court.

Headed by Justice Syed Mohammad Farooq Shah, a two-judge bench was hearing the pre-arrest bail applications of the PPP leader, who did not appear in court despite repeated directions of the trial court and the SHC.

The trial judge in his report submitted that the court had received the reference against Mr Memon and 16 other accused persons on Oct 1, 2016 and the court had issued non-bailable warrants (NBWs) for his arrest.

He said that on Nov 5, 2016 the counsel for the former Sindh information minister filed the statement along with copy of the SHC’s order stating that the accused persons had been granted anticipatory bail till Nov 7, 2016.

The judge wrote that the NBWs issued against Mr Memon were suspended as he was granted pre-arrest bail by the SHC.

He stated that later the counsel filed another statement along with SHC’s order showing that the pre-arrest bail had been extended till Dec 26, 2016.

The trial judge submitted in his report that on Jan 7 Mr Memon’s counsel moved an application for condoning the absence of his client. However, the application was dismissed by him as he was not on protective bail and a fresh warrant was issued against him for Jan 14.

He said that the statement of the suspect was recorded and proceedings for attachment of his property were initiated.

However, the trial judge said, the proceedings for property attachment were suspended after Mr Memon’s counsel on Jan 24 filed a statement along with the SHC’s order that granted him protective bail till Jan 31.

He further submitted that in this case all the suspects were appearing in court except Sharjeel Memon and Anita Baloch.

The trial judge further stated that since suspect Memon was on protective bail, therefore his case had not been bifurcated from the case of other suspects.

The SHC bench put off the hearing to Feb 17 when the matter pertaining to further extension to Mr Memon’s pre-arrest bail would be taken up.

The self-exiled former minister has been given several chances to surrender before the trial court in two corruption references against him by the SHC that time and again extended his pre-arrest bail on the request of his counsel.

Earlier, the court gave him bail in the sum of Rs1m each in the two cases to appear before the trial court for further remedy and warned that the amount of surety shall be automatically forfeited if he failed to surrender before the court within stipulated time.

The bench also made it clear that no further extension shall be allowed in future except in exceptional circumstances.

The court further ruled that the trial court might proceed with usual proceedings in the references notwithstanding the petitioner’s absence, including, if need be, declaring him a proclaimed offender and thereafter separating his case from the trial.

The two corruptions references against him were relating to an alleged award of advertisements at exorbitant rates, and illegal adjustment and consolidation of hundreds of acres of land in favour of a private housing project.

The petitioner’s counsel, advocate Dr Faiz H. Shah, stated that the court had earlier extended his client’s bail till Dec 26 but he could not fly back home due to his ailment.

He told the judges that Mr Memon wanted to surrender before the trial court and face charges, and therefore, requested the court to extend his bail.

The court had earlier extended his bail till Dec 26 subject to forfeiture of 50 per cent of the surety amount deposited for his bail.

The court had also increased the surety amount to Rs4m and warned that if he failed to surrender before the trial court within the stipulated time his surety would be forfeited.

One of the references, sent by the NAB chairman, said that the investigation was conducted regarding corruption and corrupt practices in the advertisement awareness campaigns on TV and FM channels between July 2013 and June 2015 and it was found that the suspects acted in connivance with each other resulting in a loss of Rs3.279bn to the exchequer.

The other reference against Mr Memon pertained to illegal allotment and adjustment of land in 43 dehs of Malir in favour of Bahria Town.

The SHC had earlier ordered forfeiture of 50pc of surety amount — Rs1.5m — deposited for his protective bail “to discourage him and others from misusing the extraordinary relief of protective bail”.

Courtesy: Dawn News

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