High-profile corruption: Only remaining accused in Cotecna case acquitted

Published: September 17, 2011
Rawalpindi court delivers verdict, says prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove allegations. PHOTO: PID/FILE

Rawalpindi court delivers verdict, says prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove allegations. PHOTO: PID/FILE


The only person who had still been on trial in the high-profile Cotecna corruption case involving President Asif Ali Zardari has been acquitted by an accountability court in Rawalpindi, owing to inadequate evidence against him.

Judge Jahandad Khan Banth, of the Accountability Court III in Rawalpindi, dismissed the charges against A R Siddiqui, a former chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue but said that President Zardari, one of the other accused in the case, would have to face charges after his constitutional immunity from prosecution expired at the end of his term as president.

The president’s mother-in-law, Begun Nusrat Bhutto, also accused in the case, has been temporarily granted immunity from prosecution due to her poor health. Judge Banth declared that she would face prosecution once she recovers.

The case involves an allegedly corrupt award for a contract for supervising pre-shipment at the Karachi port. The contract was awarded to the Swiss company Cotecna in exchange for a bribe during former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s second term.

The former prime minister and her husband (now president) were accused of taking a 6% bribe on the revenue stream the Swiss company expected on the $131 million contract.

The case was temporarily closed after Benazir was assassinated on December 27, 2007. Siddiqui was the sole accused left standing on trial.

The verdict comes about 14 years after the case was first filed by the-then chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, Saifur Rehman, in 1997. The prosecution called 14 witnesses in the case but was unable to convince the judge of the strength of their case.

Siddiqui was accused of awarding the contract to Cotecna at the behest of the former prime minister while violating government rules on contracts and procurement.

The case had been moved to the court in Rawalpindi in 2001. Seven directors of the Swiss company, including its chairman, were also co-accused in the case but were declared proclaimed offenders after they did not answer the court’s summons.

Under Swiss law in the 1990s, bribing foreign officials in order to obtain contracts was legal and even deductable from the taxes a company paid to the Swiss government.

Cotecna was awarded a contract to inspect the cargo being loaded onto ships at the Karachi port, a task at which the company specialises in. The company had been approaching the government of Pakistan for the award of such a contract in the early 1990s, but the administration of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as the caretaker government of former prime minister Moin Qureshi, had turned them down.

Earlier the Cotecna and SGS corruption reference was filed under one case but were later separated and tried discretely.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Sep 16, 2011 - 3:37PM

    Pakistan is one funny country.


  • kazi jawed akhter
    Sep 16, 2011 - 3:58PM

    Good. I already believed that Mr.Zardari was innocent in all such cases framed against him through Saif ur Rehman on desire/wishes of Mians.


  • Karim
    Sep 16, 2011 - 4:10PM

    How the prosecution can provide sufficient evidence to prove allegations. History repeats itself. Judiciary might be independent but the same may not be true about executive/prosecution.


  • Rock
    Sep 16, 2011 - 4:57PM

    No evidence. LOL.


  • Karim
    Sep 16, 2011 - 4:59PM

    same was the outcome in 13-year-old graft case – commonly known as SGS reference.

    why evidence is not provided on scientific and modern grounds instead of employing centuries old methods?


  • Ahmad
    Sep 16, 2011 - 5:01PM

    No comments.


  • Chaudhry Allah Daad
    Sep 16, 2011 - 5:27PM

    By the end of his first term, Mr. President will be declared innocent like a newly born child. The only clean person to run for the second term.


  • Imran
    Sep 16, 2011 - 6:01PM

    Saner people, who were not raised reading trashy stories of the Urdu tabloids and newspapers, knew this all along. The others might be shocked as this conflicts with their believes which they nurtured under the influence of the propaganda machinery of Mr. Sharif!


    Sep 16, 2011 - 6:25PM

    Someone above was right . Pakistan is a funny countryRecommend

  • Mirza
    Sep 16, 2011 - 7:12PM

    It is not surprising at all. This same judiciary (including the SC judges) had decades not years to provide justice and put the culprits away. These cases were initiated mostly during the Sharif govts. However, for decades when Zardari was in jail and PPP not in power both Sharif and Mush could not provided evidence and witnesses in their dictatorial rule. These same judges of SC were in HC and lower courts and never bothered to provide justice. This says a lot about the justice system in Pakistan. Now that PPP is in power, the same judges cannot continue sitting on their hands and keep the cases undecided to be used at a later time.


  • Elyas Kakar
    Sep 16, 2011 - 7:47PM

    Salute to Mard E hur Asif ali zardari who spent 11 years in jail in these fake cases the mission of bhutto cant be stopped any one those who became hurdles in in the mission of Bhuttoism there names are written in the black side of history eg gen zia farooq laghari who lost there identity after betraying Bhutto mission


  • Ahmad
    Sep 16, 2011 - 8:42PM

    Justice– Pakistani style.. Recommend

  • TeeAiy
    Sep 16, 2011 - 9:15PM

    Another internet edition of a national newspaper reports:

    ….The court also decided that no action could be taken against President Asif Ali Zardari due to presidential immunity.

    Where is truth???


  • Adnan
    Sep 17, 2011 - 3:59AM

    @kazi jawed akhter:


  • Arbab Ali Bhellar
    Sep 17, 2011 - 4:31PM

    I am giving you correct analysis of the society, You are looking in the society truth is living in bottom and false is at top. If we people realise these things and pratically oppose these things the socity will gradualy changed as our participation ratio (%). I think all the peoples in Pakistan are very Genious but why they con’t courge to speak truth and do right. We appreciate our brave soldiers and leaders who are facing the very complicated problems with full potencial and due care.


  • Nimra Ch.
    Sep 17, 2011 - 7:29PM

    You can not conceal the truth; it finally comes out by hook or by crook. Benazir Bhutto Shaheed and Asif Ali Zardari faced every humiliation for these fabricated political motivated cases. This was not the only stigma attached with President, there were several other also, and most of them have been proved fabricated while the result of the remaining would be no more different. Cotecna Reference case has been quashed but I have a very sensitive question here? What was the sin of Zardari that he remained behind bars for 11 years? Is there any compensation for this decade long suffering? What is the price for those 11 years Zardari passed behind bars and brutal assault he face. Saif Ur Rehman the perpetrators of these fabricated charges and master mind Mian Nawaz Sharif had already confessed that these cases were leveled against PPP mainstream on the pressure of agencies. I am really sorry for the judicial system where president of Pakistan got justice after 13 years; you can imagine the situation of judicial system of our country.


    Sep 18, 2011 - 2:25PM

    Nimra CH. It is truth because you participate with your open opinion, We like those peoples who always speak truth for the betterment of humanity in Pakistan.


  • Sharjeel Khattak
    Sep 20, 2011 - 7:59PM

    Everyone knows that the cases against Benazir Bhutto Shaheed and Asif Ali Zardari were politically motivated. PPP has not compromised on any democratic principle in the NRO. None of the corruption cases have been proved against Zardari then what is the mean of casting a spell over people by writing such kind of articles. Nawaz Sharif should be held responsible for his misdeeds in past. Zardari spent 11 years in Jail due to Sharif political motivated cases and there was case proved against him.
    Once in the PML-N Govt., then the Chief Ehtesab Bureau Mian Saif Ur Rehman made sure that false corruption cases on Benazir Bhutto and Zardari were to be dealt as per as desires of Nawaz Sharif. He maneuvered to send their files to judge namely Malik Qayyum brother of an MNA of PML-N Pervaiz Malik. In 1997, when Ehtesab slogan was initially trumpeted high by Mian Saif, a deputy secretary named Aftab Syed was specially sent from Islamabad to Lahore to launch and follow false cases of corruption against Benazir Bhutto, Mr. Zardari and PPP’s nearby officers. He stayed there initially for 22 days in a 5 star hotel on Govt. expanses till he was sure that all important cases were fixed before Malik Qayyum. This officer and another so-called honest DS Nusratullah were later on awarded for getting all pre-arrest bails rejected, temporary injuctions terminated and permissions of FIRs granted against PPP-connected persons and some senior officers, all jobs were handled and accomplished by Justice Malik Qayyum.
    This is the reality of cases against PPP leaders and even Nawaz Sharif himself confessed that all the cases leveled against PPP leaders were political motivated and based on personal vendetta. All the late mongers and lap top warriors should stop blaming President and PPP leaders. Recommend

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