Ephedrine scam: Heads of two pharma companies arrested

Secretary Narcotics refuses to brief NA panel again.


Zahid Gishkori/mudassir Raja April 25, 2012

RAWALPINDI/ ISLAMABAD: The Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) on Tuesday arrested the chief executives of two pharmaceutical companies allegedly involved in the ephedrine scam after their pre-arrest bails were rejected.

ANF officials arrested chief executive of Danas Pharmaceutical Islamabad Ansar Farooq Chaudhry and chief executive of Berlex Lab International Multan Iftikhar Khan Babar as they exited the courtroom where a division bench of the Lahore High Court denied them pre-arrest bails.

The owners of these companies have been accused of misappropriating around 9,000kg of ephedrine after obtaining a quota from the health ministry for the purpose of exporting the chemical to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Justice Saghir Ahmed Qadri and Justice Rauf Ahmed Sheikh of LHC’s Rawalpindi bench dismissed the petitions filed by the accused which claimed that the ANF could not investigate the case and that if any illegality is found then the health ministry should take action under the Drugs Act.

The panel of lawyers representing the accused resorted to jargon wrangling and argued that ephedrine was not a controlled ‘substance’ but rather a controlled ‘chemical’. Therefore, they argued that it was not a case of narcotics, but of the regulation of drugs.

Special prosecutor for ANF Waseem Ahmed Qureshi, however, argued that the health ministry had violated relevant rules by granting the huge quota of ephedrine to pharmaceutical companies.

He noted that the two above-mentioned companies had so far failed to provide satisfactory answers to the ANF regarding the use of huge quantities of ephedrine. The fate of three others accused in the case will be decided on Wednesday.

Ministry reluctant

Meanwhile, the ministry of narcotics control on Tuesday again refused to brief the National Assembly Standing Committee on Narcotics.

Sources close to the development said the ministry insisted that it had no evidence regarding the alleged involvement of the premier’s son Ali Musa Gilani in the scam.

This is the second time Secretary Narcotics Control Zafar Abbas Lak has refused to give a briefing on the scam. “NA panel wants a briefing on the premier’s son’s involvement in the case. We have already informed the Supreme Court that he is not involved in the scam,” he said.

Chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Narcotics Control, Murtuza Javed Abbasi said, “my committee has sent a legal notice to Secretary Narcotics on his refusal to give a briefing.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.

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