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Court acquits Zardari in 16-year-old NAB reference

Court acquits Zardari in 16-year-old NAB reference

RAWALPINDI: An accountability court acquitted Pakistan People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday in a reference filed against him 16 years ago for allegedly possessing illegal assets.

The reference was filed by the National Accountability Bureau in 2001 during the tenure of military ruler Gen (Retd) Pervez Musharraf.

Accountability Court-I Judge Mehmood Ranjha noted that the reference filed by NAB was not maintainable as the evidence submitted by the graft watchdog was only photo stat copies, which held no legal value.

The petition for for the PPP leader’s acquittal was filed by his counsel, Farooq H Naek. Zardari, former president of Pakistan, was exempted from appearing before the court.

In 2014, an accountability court in Islamabad had reopened five references against Zardari. It had earlier decided to indict Zardari in four graft references out of five pending against him.

These references were:

  • Polo ground case – One pending reference surrounds the illegal construction of the polo ground and other ancillary works at the Prime Minister House, which are in violation of rules and procedure. In this case, the court had acquitted Saeed Mehdi, while the case against Shafi Sehwani, the former chairman of Capital Development Authority, was withdrawn following his death.
  • SGS – In July 2011, pronouncing its verdict in the 13-year-old graft case commonly known as the SGS reference, an accountability court absolved all the accused, except Zardari.

In the SGS reference filed in 1997, it was alleged that then prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her spouse had received kickbacks in a pre-shipment contract between the government and SGS.

  • ARY case – Grant of licences to ARY Traders for import of gold and silver caused losses to the public exchequer, amounting to approximately Rs18.2 million.
  • Ursus tractors deal – Another reference, which pertains to Ursus tractors deal, deals with alleged misappropriation in the purchase of 5,900 Russian and Polish tractors at a cost of Rs150,000 each, for the then Awami Tractor Scheme.

The court had earlier had acquitted the co-accused Nawab Yousuf Talpur and AH Kango in the case. The Ursus tractors purchase deal allegedly caused a loss of Rs268.3 million to the ADBP and Rs1.67 billion to the State Bank.

  • Cotecna – This case involved an allegedly corrupt award for a contract for supervising pre-shipment at the Karachi port.

The contract was awarded to the Swiss company Cotecna in exchange for a bribe during former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s second term. Benazir Bhutto and her husband were accused of taking a 6% bribe on the revenue stream the Swiss company expected on the $131 million contract.