ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is learnt to have directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to launch an investigation into a multibillion-rupee fraud in the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and submit a report within three days.

The NBP itself had filed a complaint with the FIA and nominated a senior woman executive, who confessed her complicity in facilitating fraudulent transactions.

“The Federal Minister for Finance Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar has taken a serious notice of a news item (appearing in a section of the press) regarding a (massive) fraud in the NBP,” according to a handout issued by the Finance Ministry on Sunday.

On December 10, The Banker Pakistan had reported that NBP’s senior officials committed a fraud in the Abandoned Properties Organization (APO) in connivance with the organization’s officials.

After the appearance of the news story, a private news channel also highlighted this racket.

Ishaq Dar tasked the SBP governor to submit a report within three days to expedite legal proceedings in accordance with the rules, the ministry stated on Sunday.

The news item appearing in The Banker Pakistan quoted finance ministry officials as saying that the fraud was committed in connivance with senior bank officials, most prominent among them was an assistant vice-president of the bank.

Interestingly, the Finance Ministry’s orders for a probe came three weeks after the FIA arrested and detained all main accused. This is third such major corruption case unearthed in the government-owned bank over the past three years.

The official complaint was lodged by the NBP and subsequently an FIR was registered under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, Anti-Corruption Act and Pakistan Penal Code of 1876.

“During preliminary internal probe, Ms Sadaf Siddiqui of the NBP confessed that she facilitated APO officials in these fraudulent transactions and received her share of the misappropriated funds,” stated the complaint filed by Risha Ameen Mohyeddin, the Group Chief of Treasury and Capital Markets Group of the NBP.

“She also disclosed that the misappropriated amount was Rs1.2 billion.” Miss Sadaf Siddiqui was serving as an Assistant Vice-President of the NBP.

Documents provided details of two fraudulent transactions worth Rs573 million.

An amount of Rs274.74 million was transferred from M/s APO, Karachi account of NBP to HBL’s Landhi Industrial Area Branch also in Karachi on October 2 last year. On October 9 last year, an amount of Rs298.2 million was transferred from the APO account to the HBL account, documents showed.

The NBP management wrote that preliminary inquiries showed that accused officials of the APO were assisted by Ms Sadaf Siddiqui.

“As per disclosures made by Ms Sadaf Siddiqui, she and other employees – former deputy administrator of APO, Karachi, Muhammad Ahmad, deputy administrator Basit, APO’s deputy administrator in Islamabad Liaquat Ali and APO’s accounts officer in Islamabad Imtiaz Ahamd – misappropriated approximately Rs1.2 billion being the proceeds of sales of government securities such as Pakistan Investment Bonds and Treasury Bills,” according to the complaint.

An FIA official told The Banker Pakistan that the agency mentioned Rs1.45 billion as the misappropriated amount in the challan submitted in court. The incumbent Administrator of the APO, Allah Yar later told NBP officials that the APO employees concerned had opened bank accounts in HBL without his authorisation.