WEB DESK: An accountability court in Islamabad on Tuesday acquitted PPP co-chairperson and former president Asif Ali Zardari in the Societe Generale Surveillance (SGS) and Cotecna corruption cases. Zardari had filed acquittal pleas with the accountability court in February this year through his counsel Farooq H. Naek. The pleas stated that there was no incriminating evidence against the accused and these cases were constituted on political basis.
Naek claimed that evidence available against his client was not genuine. In its verdict, the court announced that an accused cannot be punished without availability of original documents. SGS is a Swiss inspection, verification, testing and certification company. In the SGS reference filed in 1997, it was alleged that former chairman of Board of Revenue A. R. Siddiqui negotiated a pre-shipment contract between the Government of Pakistan and SGS to obtain pecuniary advantages for the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and her spouse Asif Ali Zardari on September 20, 1994.
The Cotecna reference related to the award of a contract to the Swiss company after allegedly receiving six per cent bribe on the revenue proceeds. The former president has already been acquitted in other three cases – the ARY Gold, Polo Ground and Ursus Tractor corruption references. Ursus tractors’ reference pertained to alleged misappropriation in the purchase of 5,900 Russian and Polish tractors at a cost of Rs 150,000 each, for the then Awami Tractor Scheme. Zardari is one of the main accused along with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; however, her name was removed from the reference after her death.
The ARY reference pertained to alleged grant of licences to ARY Traders for import of gold and silver which caused losses to the public exchequer, amounting to approximately Rs 18.2 million. Former president was also the main accused in the case. The court had acquitted co-accused Brigadier Aslam Hayat Qureshi (Retd), Salman Farooqui, Abdul Rauf, Jan Muhammad and Haji Abdul Razzaq Yaqoob (the late). The Polo Ground reference was built upon the construction of a polo ground along with ancillary works at the Prime Minister’s House, which NAB says are illegal and in violation of the rights and privileges that were afforded to Zardari.
It is pertinent to mention here that Asif Zardari went to Dubai in June this year and has not returned since then. Speaking on the occasion, legal counsel for former President Farooq H. Naik said that NAB had no original record of the case and 16 witnesses produced before court leveled no serious allegation against Zardari. Former Accountability Bureau chief Senator Saifur Rehman had filed these corruption charges against senior PPP leadership to victimize them politically in 1998, he added.