Benazir, Zardari, Sherpao file petitions for withdrawal of references

November 14th, 2007 - 2:03 am ICT by admin  
Farooque H. Naik, counsel of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, filed their plea and sought withdrawal of SGS and ARY references and return of assets.

In the BMW reference, Zardari was accused of impersonating himself as student and importing a 1993 model armoured luxury vehicle with the intention to evade duties. The national exchequer was deprived of Rs.10 million due to this deal.

The prosecution said that the actual price of the bulletproof armoured vehicle, with an unladen weight of 2,560 k.g. was 55,000 pounds. But, to evade the duty, the accused showed the weight of the car as 1,610 k.g. purchased at a price of 12,000 pounds.

The import of the car was allegedly arranged by Fareed Veerani, the owner of Agha super store of Karachi, from London in the name of Sajjad Qayyum, a Pakistani student under the personal baggage scheme. Even the freight charges of the PIA were not fully paid, the prosecution alleged. The customs duty was cleared by the Jumbo customs clearance agency.

The prosecution alleged that the accused did not claim the vehicle when it came for maintenance at the workshop of Aitezaz Ahmed, the brother-in-law of former Chairman of Capital Development Authority Shafi Sehwani.

The ARY-Gold corruption reference against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari resulted in the government losing Rs.1.82 billion during the period March 1995 to September 1997 because of the duty exemptions. Besides, the import of gold caused a loss of Rs. 1.5 million and import of silver, Rs. 58 million to the country.

The Ehtesab Bench indicted Zardari on August 12, 1998 with specific allegations that he had received 10 million dollars as illegal gratification for the grant of gold import license and exempting it from regulatory duty and other taxes.

On the complaint by the Pakistan Government, the Swiss federal police also initiated a case, which was heard by Judge Michel in a court in Geneva. The court also froze all bank accounts of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari in Switzerland.

The proposal for the exemption of duty was sent to the then Minister Ahmed Mukhtar in 1993. The ARY Gold Traders sent the proposal, which was later submitted to Ms Bhutto’s adviser V.A Jaffery. However, the finance ministry opposed the scheme whereas a note was sent to Mr. Zardari who allegedly approved the proposal.

The SGS corruption reference against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari involved both being accused of getting six percent commission of the total revenue of pre-shipment for awarding the contract to the SGS.

The commission was paid to an offshore company, Bomer Finance Inc. allegedly owned by Asif Ali Zardari, through Mr. Schlegelmilch, according to the prosecution. The ultimate beneficiaries of the commission were Asif and Benazir Bhutto, the prosecution alleged.

The other respondents in the case were former Central Board of Revenue (CBR) Chairman A.R Siddiqui, Jens Schlegelmich of Switzerland the then SGS Managing Director, Oliver De Breakeleer, three operation managers, Michael Lysewyes, Mickael Warrow and David Murray , two Managers, R.Rijken and Ms. Andrea Ralp

The Accountability Bench of the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench had convicted Zardari and Benazir in the SGS case in April 1999. The Supreme Court set aside the conviction and had sent this case for re-trial to the AC.

An Accountability Bench led by former LHC Justice Malik Abdul Qayyum, had awarded Benazir and Zardari to five years imprisonment with a fine of 8.6 million dollars on April 15, 1999. Another court sentenced Benazir to an additional three-year prison term after she avoided appearing before it in 2002.

Federal Minister for Interior Aftab Sherpao also filed a plea in the accountability court for his acquittal from a NAB reference about Islamabad New City Project under the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials submitted a case in connection with the new city project reference in the Rawalpindi Accountability Court No1 on April 16, 2003.

Apart from Sherpao, who was then the federal Minister for Water and Power, the other accused in the case were Haji Nawaz Khokhar, former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Iqbal Ahmed, former Director General of National Housing Authority, Zahid Yaseen, Niaz Ali and Usman Ali.

The court had already exempted Sherpao from appearing in the court in this reference. Yaseen was declared a proclaimed offender. Another accused Ibadat Ali had died when the reference was filed in the accountability court.

The court issued a notice to National Accountability Bureau and adjourned the hearing for tomorrow. (ANI)

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