LAHORE - The National Accountability Bureau on Saturday filed a corruption reference against a gang involved in blackmailing NAB chief Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal and six other people.

The development comes a few days after two controversial audio and video recordings involving chief of the country’s top anti-corruption authority went viral on social media. NAB has described the audio-videos as “scandalous” and an attempt by the blackmailers to tarnish the image of the leading state institution. Javed Iqbal has been accused of inappropriate conversation with a woman. The woman was later identified as Tayyaba Gull, who is allegedly an accomplice of the blackmailers.

The Accountability Court in Lahore on Saturday issued notices to the accused persons for June 17. The reference comprises of 630 pages. Jawad-ul-Hassan, Admin Judge of the Lahore Accountability Court issued the notices and summoned the accused persons and the investigation officials. The court has also summoned, for June 17, Tayyaba Gull and Farooq Naul, the main characters involved in the scandal. Farooq Naul is in jail presently while Tayyaba is on bail.

According to the reference, the group allegedly blackmailed several individuals including the NAB Chairman while the same gangsters committed frauds with public worth Rs24.4 million. The NAB further claimed that they had received six separate complaints against Gull and Naul and at least 36 witnesses recorded their statements against the accused persons.

On the other hand, the alleged scandal has stunned the bureaucracy including the top officials of NAB in the Punjab province. Since Opposition parties are demanding a federal inquiry to ascertain facts, many government officers were tightlipped.

An official, who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity, said the scandal must be fully probed since very important institutions are involved in it. “This (scandal) has fallen on us like a bomb because the NAB investigators who interrogated the (alleged) blackmailers could be grilled in case a federal inquiry is ordered by the competent authority,” the official said. When contacted, the Lahore NAB spokesman did not attend his mobile phone despite attempts.

An official of the Punjab government said that the scandal had stunned the civil bureaucracy across the province. He said the controversial scandal emerged at a time when the NAB is investigating hundreds of mega corruption cases involving senior bureaucrats and other individuals.

“The credibility of an entire institution is at stake after this controversial audio scandal,” the official said. He said that the blackmailers must be brought to justice in order to save the prestige of the leading anti-graft body.

Early this week, the controversial audio and video clips of NAB Chairman with a woman had gone viral after a local news channel aired the story against NAB chief.

In a press statement issued by NAB in the backdrop of audio-video scandal, the authority straightforwardly rejected the contents of the story, terming it fabricated and baseless. “In fact, this is a group of blackmailers who tried to damage the repute of NAB and its Chairman,” the press release said. NAB also claimed that they had arrested two individuals “despite pressure” on mega corruption charges. According to NAB, there are 42 FIRs registered against this group. Also, there is strong evidence to prosecute the gang involved in blackmailing and kidnapping for ransom.

“There has also been evidence against this group for committing frauds with people at large.” The statement said. The NAB also claimed the so-called scandal was an attempt to avoid a corruption reference through blackmailing. The authority identified Farooq Naul as ringleader of the gang.

Naul was sent to Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail by the accountability court after the NAB arrested him on corruption charges a few months ago.