ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Wednesday acquitted former president and co-chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari in the polo ground case, Express News reported.
On May 20, the court had reserved its judgment on Zardari’s acquittal plea, regarding five corruption references. The former president is facing five references filed by NAB 17 years ago, including the Ursus tractors deal, the ARY case, the polo ground case, and the Cotecna and SGS cases.
The bench had reserved its judgment after Zardari’s counsel, Farooq H Naek, had concluded his argument. In October 2013, the same bench had reopened graft cases against the former president after his presidential immunity expired.
In his concluding arguments, Naek maintained that not a single witness testified against Zardari. The counsel had claimed that the record submitted by the prosecution were not genuine, as they were photocopies and have no legal significance.
Naek had argued that the references were filed against Zardari under the Ehtasab Act promulgated in the previous Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) regime under which maximum punishment even in offences of serious nature was not more than seven years.
The reference is related to the illegal construction of the polo ground and other ancillary works at the Prime Minister House when Benazir Bhutto was the PM. In this case, the court had acquitted Saeed Mehdi, while the case against Shafi Sehwani, a former Capital Development Authority chairman, was withdrawn following his death.
In the SGS reference filed in 1997, it was alleged that Bhutto and her spouse had received kickbacks in a pre-shipment contract between the government and SGS. The court had court absolved all the accused except Zardari.
The grant of licences to ARY Traders for import of gold and silver allegedly caused losses to the public exchequer, amounting to approximately Rs18.2 million.
Ursus tractors deal
Another reference, which pertains to the Ursus tractors deal, alleged misappropriation in the purchase of 5,900 Russian and Polish tractors for the Awami Tractor Scheme.
The court had acquitted the co-accused, Nawab Yousuf Talpur and AH Kango. The Ursus tractors purchase deal allegedly caused a loss of Rs268.3 million to ADBP and Rs1.67 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan.
This case involved the award for a contract for supervising pre-shipment at a Karachi port. The contract was allegedly awarded to the Swiss company Cotecna in exchange for a bribe during former prime minister Bhutto’s second term. Bhutto and her husband were accused of taking six per cent of the revenue stream the Swiss company expected on the $131 million contract.