PHC upholds conviction of travel agent in fraud case
PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday upheld a travel agent’s conviction for defrauding around 400 intending Haj pilgrims of over Rs40 million.
Convict Abdul Aqeel had challenged the November 26, 2009 sentence of seven years rigorous imprisonment and Rs40.038 million fine by an accountability court.
However, a two-member bench consisting of Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Malik Azmatullah rejected the plea and ruled that the prosecution had proved the case against the appellant and the accountability court had not erred in convicting him. The court gave the benefit of Section 382-B Code of Criminal Procedure to the appellant under which his period of imprisonment prior to conviction would be counted in his prison term.
In the case, the court has already declared Naveed Sadiq a proclaimed offender while issuing a warrant for his arrest. Special Prosecutor National Accountability Bureau, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Lajbar Khan Khalil informed the bench that 59 people had complained to the bureau that Aqeel, owner of Aqeel Travel and Tours, Nowshera, received over Rs40 million in 2008 but failed to send them to Saudi Arabia for Haj.
He said Aqeel had no Haj quota and committed a fraud. Justice Dost observed that had NAB conducted proper investigation, several officials of the religious affairs ministry would have been found involved in the fraud.
He questioned the ministry’s ignorance of the said travel agent’s repeated advertisements in the media. The judge said proper steps by NAB would have prevented the fraud.
The prosecutor said NAB had placed all Haj-related information, including that of Haj quota, on its official website for public. The court rejected the argument and asked him how the NAB website could be visited in tribal areas with no electric supply.
During interrogation by police, the convict had reportedly claimed he was defrauded Rs24.18 million by a foreigner, Kristina Diana, who operated through Naveed Sadiq, a resident of Kohat. He said the two later disappeared.