NAB, plea-bargain & public money

The Sindh Cabinet during its meeting on Tuesday urged the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to remit Rs 1.59 billion to the provincial Exchequer, which it had deducted at source 25 percent of the total recovery it had made through Voluntary Return (VR) scheme during the last 11 years. The Provincial Cabinet was briefed that the Supreme Court in Suo-Moto Case No. 17 of 2016 and Balochistan High Court in CP No.1048 of 2014 have expressed concerns and issued directives for depositing recovered amounts under voluntary return schemes of NAB into relevant Public Accounts of Federation and Provinces. According to reports, the Provincial Cabinet was informed that NAB recovers the allegedly embezzled public money and retains 25 percent of the amount for distribution to its officials toward reward for service and for well-being of the department, the practice which has no legal justification as the NAB officials are already taking hefty payments and allowances for their services to the nation.
According to media reports, during the last 11 years, the NAB recovered Rs. 6,382,287,659 in VR and in other corruption cases from Sindh against which it gave Rs. 4,786,671, 308 to Sindh and retained 25 percent or Rs. 1,595, 571,920. After in-depth discussion of the lawmakers, the Provincial Cabinet while referring to the Supreme Court’s decision requested the NAB to remit Rs.1.59 billion to the Sindh government. The Supreme Court and Sindh government had gathered complete details of NAB’s recovery of embezzled public money, and the amount grabbed by the anti-graft watchdog in the name of rewards, however both top institutions did not estimate the amount of Public money taken away by the criminals from the National exchequer after giving a peanut to the NAB in the name of voluntary return. The clause 25 of NAB Ordinance 1999 provides an opportunity to an accused to apply for a plea bargain to settle down its case with the government. The plea bargain law is being practiced in several countries of the world including USA, UK, India, Italy, and others in different kinds of cases such as road accidents, political corruption, and financial embezzlement etc. However, the distribution of rewards to the watch dogs or law enforcers has not such an example as made by the NAB for the world. The plea-bargain law of the NAB ordinance had been objected by the legal experts and intelligentsia because this is the easiest way of converting illegal black money into a legal wealth by the criminals after paying just a meager amount to the NAB.
The officials of the anti-graft body happily facilitate such cases because it not only reduces their labour but also puts a significant chunk of money into their pockets. According to experts, the criminals are the big beneficiaries of plea-bargain law instead of the government, because after agreeing to plea bargain an accused gets punishment/settlement for a minor crime and gets a clean chit for major charges by the government.
The PPP leadership and Sindh government top hierarchy had been a prey of the national anti-graft watchdog during the past. Currently, Sindh Government rightly hit back at the NAB and demanded the money back which NAB received as its share through plea bargain agreements/ VRs in the province during the past 11 years. Some critics suggest that the Sindh government must pass a bill on the issue and curb this practice at least in the Sindh province and use that money for the benefit of poor masses.