NAB gives Ahad Cheema clean chit in assets beyond means reference

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has informed an accountability court in Lahore that no evidence of wrongdoing was found against Ahad Khan Cheema — the special assistant to the caretaker prime minister — during an investigation in connection with an assets beyond means case from 2018, it emerged today.

The development caps a remarkable turnaround as five years ago the Bureau itself had accused Cheema of holding property worth billions of rupees in the name of his family members.

He was the first high-profile arrest in Punjab during NAB’s crackdown against corruption in 2018 — seemingly targeted against leaders of the PML-N and those close to it — before the general elections.

The bureau had arrested him on February 21, 2018, when he appeared before its investigation team in an inquiry into the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme.

Later, the NAB had also initiated separate inquiries against him, one involving the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) City and assets beyond means. Cheema was granted bail in all three cases in April 2021.

Cheema was cleared of the charges by the bureau along with former prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case on May 20 this.

In the latest development, the NAB submitted a report to the Lahore accountability court, asserting that the investigation showed the probe against Cheema was not warranted under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.

It further added: “After taking into account evidence collected during re-investigation proceedings, the case against accused is not made out under the provisions of NAO, 1999.”

The watchdog clarified that the properties supposedly owned by alleged “benamidars” could not be linked to Cheema. It emphasised that the accounts held by Cheema’s relatives were not “benami” (undeclared) accounts belonging to him.

The accountability watchdog also highlighted that Cheema provided details of his income to the NAB, and it was examined during the course of the investigation.

The NAB urged the court to decide the matter in accordance with the law“.

It is pertinent to mention here that the accountability court will hear the acquittal plea filed by Cheema on Dec 2.

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