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pakistan
Friday Jul 09 2021
By
Web Desk

No conflict over non-transparency in LNG terminal case, says court verdict on Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's bail

By
Web Desk
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Photo: Files
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Photo: Files

An accountability court has ruled that there was never any conflict over non-transparency in the LNG terminal case filed against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The court, in its detailed verdict on the bail granted to Abbasi, said that the accountability watchdog’s case is not based on whether or not the former petroleum minister took financial benefit.

“There was no conflict over whether or not there was transparency in the LNG terminal case. The authorised forum gave the approval for the LNG terminal,” said the court.

The order also said that an American aid organisation gave the fees to the consultant for the LNG project. It added that NAB failed to present any record to the court showing that Abbasi appointed the consultant.

“The consultant was appointed as a result of correspondence between Pakistan and the US. NAB has not shown how Shahid Khaqan Abbasi influenced another state in the appointment of the consultant,” ruled the court.

The court also stated that the only material NAB has presented against the former prime minister is the statement made by the former secretary petroleum as a pardoned witness.

“[The court] is not giving any observation on the standing of the pardoned witness’ statement and the pardon granted by Chairman NAB at this point,” said the court.

It added that whether the LNG terminal was developed in the interest of people or not needs further investigation.

“NAB has not been able to prove why there is a need to keep Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in jail,” said the court.

In 2019, NAB had arrested Abbasi for alleged corruption while awarding a multi-billion rupee import contract for LNG in 2013 when he was the minister for petroleum and natural resources.

On July 28, 2020, the NAB chairman had approved a supplementary reference against Abbasi, his son Abdullah Khaqan Abbasi, Miftah Ismail, ex-chairman of SSGC Board, former CEO of EETPL and MD of PSO, ex-chairman of PQA Agha Jan Akhtar, former chairman of OGRA Saeed Ahmed Khan, ex-member Oil of OGRA Aamir Naseem, ex-chairperson of OGRA Uzma Adil Khan, ex-MD of PSO Shahid M Islam, chairman of Engro Corporation Limited Husain Dawood, director of Engro Corporation Limited Abdul Samad Dawood, and others.

The allegation was that the accused, through a non-transparent process, awarded the LNG Terminal-1 contract.

The public office holders were accused of misusing their authorities in active connivance with each other to give wrongful gains of Rs14.146 billion to EETL/ETPL/ECL in connection with LNG Terminal-1 of EETL and also caused a wrongful loss of Rs7.438 billion, approximately, for non-utilisation of unused capacity of second LNG Terminal of PGPL from March 2015 to September 2019.

Hence, the total liability amounts to Rs21.584 billion, approximately, till September 2019.

It is pertinent to mention here that further losses to be incurred for the next 10 years will amount to Rs47 billion, approximately, as the said contract will expire on March 2029.

During the period, unexplained deposits of Rs1.426 billion were received in the accounts of Abdullah Abbasi and Rs1.294 billion were deposited in the bank accounts of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during between 2013 and 2017, during which the above-said LNG terminal deal was struck.

According to the reference, by concealing the origin of the aforementioned deposits and layering, the accused also committed the offence of money laundering.