ISLAMABAD: The Special Court for the Control of Narcotics Substance (CNS) indicted on Friday a former federal minister and the son of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the case pertaining to the multi-billion ephedrine scam.
The CNS judge, Iram Niazi, framed charges against the former federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Ali Musa Gilani and others as they appeared before the court.
The suspects have pleaded not guilty and decided to further stand the trial. The court has directed the prosecution to produce witnesses and evidence on the next date of hearing which is scheduled for May 12.
The ephedrine case had rocked the Pakistan Peoples Party government over five years ago.
The case regarding the illegal sale of ephedrine was registered after two pharmaceutical companies — Danas Pharmaceutical Limited and Berlex Lab International – were accused of obtaining export quotas for the drug in collusion with the health ministry officials that exceeded the limits fixed by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
Back in 2010, Ali was allegedly accused of influencing health ministry officials to allocate a quota of controlled chemical ephedrine, reportedly worth Rs70 billion, to two different Multan-based pharmaceutical companies. Apart from use in medicines, the substance is also used in the manufacture of a prohibited drug.
Ephedrine is often abused for its stimulant qualities. As a phenylethylamine, ephedrine also has a similar chemical structure to amphetamines. Because of this similarity, it can be used to create methamphetamine using a chemical reduction. This makes ephedrine a highly sought-after chemical precursor in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine.
The Gilani family has always pleaded innocence, claiming Ali had nothing to do with the ephedrine case, and that the family and the PPP was being politically victimised.
ANF’s investigation, however, had allegedly established a direct link between Ali and the multi-billion drug scandal.
Former director general health Dr Rasheed Jumma in his statement had accused both Ali and Shahabuddin of pressurising him to convert the export quota so that 9,000kg ephedrine could be used for local consumption in 2010.
Two pharmaceutical companies allocated huge quantities of ephedrine in excess of their quotas. Both firms did not keep a record of consumption of the controlled chemical.
Another accused Rizwan Khan, former director of Danas Pharmaceuticals, in his statement as an approver had claimed that ephedrine was smuggled to Iran through Balochistan which netted Rs7 billion for the people involved.
Initially, the accused persons were tried by CNS court of Rawalpindi but in 2014 in the light of the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict passed on a petition of chief executive of Berlix Pharmaceutical Iftikhar Babar, the judge observed that it did not fall under the territorial jurisdiction of Rawalpindi’s court.
The ANF then took up the matter to the Supreme Court and the apex court remanded the case to the CNS court of Islamabad.
The court would now take up the case on May 12.