NAB files reference against Abbasi, Miftah in LNG case

NAB alleges 10 accused misused powers to benefit a private company

Zaigham Naqvi December 03, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday filed a reference against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and nine others for allegedly misusing powers in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) import agreement, causing a loss of Rs47 billion to the national exchequer.

Abbasi, along with former finance minister Miftah Ismail, were produced before the accountability court in Islamabad at the end of their judicial remand. Judge Muhammad Bashir extended the judicial remand of the two accused until December 16.

At the outset of the hearing, Abbasi pleaded that an LNG terminal, cheaper than this, couldn't be installed anywhere in the world. He prayed to the court to allow him to use laptop in jail for case consultation. Ismail also raised complaint that he was being harassed.

Later, the NAB Rawalpindi moved the reference against 10 accused, including Khaqan Abbasi, Miftah Ismail and Sheikh Imranul Haq. The reference stated that the accused misused their powers and gave benefit to a private company worth Rs21 billion during March 2015 to September 2019.

The loss to the national kitty would reach Rs47 billions by 2029 and the people would bear an extra burden of Rs68 billions through gas bills in the next 15 years, according to the reference.

The other accused included former Port Qasim Authority (PQA) chairman Agha Jan Akhtar, former Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) chairman Saeed Ahmad Khan, former member Oil Ogra Amir Naseem and Ogra chairperson Usma Adil Khan.

Former managing director PSO Shahid S Islam and Engro Group chairman Hussain Dawood are also named in the reference, while former secretary of the petroleum division and its managing director had become key witnesses.

Earlier, NAB presented its investigation progress report. Abbasi told the court that more than 100 days had passed but no reference had been filed. On this, the prosecutor said that the NAB chairman had signed the reference which would be filed on Tuesday.

Abbasi then asked about the allegations in the reference. NAB prosecutor replied that there were so many allegations but the stage had yet to come to reveal them. Abbasi quipped that even the prosecutor did not know the allegations.

Miftah Islmail tried to speak in the court but the judge stopped him from interrupting the proceedings. Islmail said that NAB was harassing him. The court asked his counsel to tell his client not to get emotional.

The anti-corruption watchdog initiated an inquiry against Abbasi and his predecessor Nawaz Sharif over alleged misuse of authority, in 2018. Abbasi and few others were accused of illegally awarding LNG terminal contract for a period of 15 years to a company of their liking in violation of rules.

The inquiry into the LNG contract case was initiated almost one-and-a-half year after NAB Karachi office closed a similar inquiry against Abbasi for his alleged role in the award of a multi-billion rupee contract for the import and distribution of LNG.

The previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government completed two LNG terminals, while just days before completing its term on May 31, 2018. It stopped the PQA from going ahead with the bidding for the allocation of a site for constructing a third terminal.

Both the main accused— Abbasi and Ismail — are behind bars in this case, while Haq had obtained pre-arrest bail last week from the Islamabad High Court. The accountability court adjourned the hearing while extending Abbasi’s and Ismail’s judicial remand.

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