ISLAMABAD: An accountability court adjourned the hearing of the five references opened against former president Asif Ali Zardari to December 9 on Tuesday, Express News reported.
During the hearing today, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor told the court that Zardari is no longer exempted from trial.
Zardari’s lawyer Farooq H Naek informed the court that Zardari could not come for the hearing because of security issues.
It will be ensured that the former president is present at the court for the next hearing, he added.
The court also ordered NAB to provide a copy of the polo ground reference to Zardari.
Just as the chief graft buster Qamar Zaman Chaudhry had assumed charge on October 11, an accountability court in Islamabad had reopened five references against Zardari and summoned him before the court.
The court notice had stated that Zardari’s immunity to trial ended with him stepping down from the presidency.
In July 2011, pronouncing its verdict in the 13-year-old graft case – commonly known as the SGS reference – an accountability court had absolved all accused, except Zardari.
In the SGS reference filed in 1997, it was alleged that then prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her spouse Asif Ali Zardari had received kickbacks in a pre-shipment contract between the Pakistani government and SGS. They were accused of receiving kickbacks through offshore bank accounts of Schlegelmilch.
The case against Benazir Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto has lapsed following their deaths while six foreigners have been declared proclaimed offenders.
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 Zardari were accused of taking a 6 per cent bribe on the revenue stream the Swiss company expected on the $131 million contract. A R Siddiqui, the sole accused, was acquitted in the case in September 2011, 14 years after the case was first filed.
Grant of licences to ARY Traders for import of gold and silver caused losses to public exchequer amounting to approximately Rs18.2 million. In this case, the court has acquitted accused Brig (retd) Aslam Hayat Qureshi, Salman Farooqui, Abdul Rauf, Jan Muhammad and Haji Abdul Razzaq Yaqoob. The case against Benazir Bhutto has already been withdrawn following her death and the court has termed Javed Talat and Jens Schlegelimilch as proclaimed offenders, while issuing their non-bailable warrants.
The illegal construction of the polo ground and other ancillary works at the Prime Minister House in violation of the rules and procedure and misuse of office by the accused is another pending reference. In this case the court has acquitted Saeed Mehdi, while the case against Shafi Sehwani, the former chairman of Capital Development Authority, was withdrawn following his death.
Ursus tractors deal
Another reference pertaining to Ursus tractors is against the 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. Former president Zardari is one of the main accused along with former food and agriculture minister and current PPP MNA Nawab Yousuf Talpur and director general of A H Kango. An accountability court of the NAB 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.