Thursday July 18, 2024

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi exonerated in LNG terminal case

NAB had accused former prime minister, along with others, of misusing their authorities to give wrongful gains of Rs14.146 billion to each other

By Azaz Syed & Arfa Feroz Zake
April 30, 2024
Former prime minister and ex-PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. — The News/File
Former prime minister and ex-PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. — The News/File

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court in Islamabad exonerated ex-prime minister and former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and others accused in the LNG terminal reference.

Abbasi's acquittal comes after the withdrawal of the reference by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

During the hearing, attended by the ex-premier along with his lawyers, conducted by accountability court's judge Nasir Javed Rana the court announced the verdict on a petition filed by NAB seeking the withdrawal of its reference against the politico. 

Deputy Prosecutor Azhar Maqbool told the court that the accountability bureau is withdrawing the reference against Abbasi.

In 2019, NAB arrested Abbasi for alleged corruption while awarding a multi-billion rupee import contract for LNG in 2013 when he was the minister for petroleum and natural resources.

On July 28, 2020, the NAB chairman approved a supplementary reference against Abbasi, his son Abdullah Khaqan Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail, ex-chairman of SSGC Board, former CEO of EETPL and MD of PSO, ex-chairman of Port Qasim Authority (PQA) Agha Jan Akhtar, former chairman of OGRA Saeed Ahmed Khan, ex-member of OGRA Aamir Naseem, Uzma, ex-MD of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) Shahid M Islam, and others.

The allegation was that the accused, through a non-transparent process, was awarded the LNG Terminal-1 contract.

The public office holders were accused of misusing their authorities in active connivance with each other to give wrongful gains of Rs14.146 billion to EETL/ETPL/ECL in connection with LNG Terminal-1 of EETL and also caused a wrongful loss of Rs7.438 billion, approximately, for non-utilisation of unused capacity of second LNG Terminal of PGPL from March 2015 to September 2019.

Hence, the total liability amounts to Rs21.584 billion, approximately, till September 2019.

It is pertinent to mention here that further losses to be incurred for the next 10 years will amount to Rs47 billion, approximately, as the said contract will expire on March 2029.

During the period, unexplained deposits of Rs1.426 billion were received in the accounts of Abdullah Abbasi and Rs1.294 billion were deposited in Abbasi's bank accounts between 2013 and 2017, during which the above-said LNG terminal deal was struck.

According to the reference, by concealing the origin of the aforementioned deposits and layering, the accused also committed the offence of money laundering.

Abbasi, in 2021, was granted bail by an accountability court that ruled there was never any conflict over non-transparency in the LNG terminal case.

The court, in its detailed verdict on the bail, said that the accountability watchdog’s case is not based on whether or not the former petroleum minister took financial benefit.

“There was no conflict over whether or not there was transparency in the LNG terminal case. The authorised forum gave the approval for the LNG terminal,” said the court.

The court said whether the LNG terminal was developed in the interest of people or not needs further investigation.

“NAB has not been able to prove why there is a need to keep Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in jail,” said the court.

Engro welcomes court's decision

In a statement, the Engro Corporation said the the accountability court "honourably" exonerated and acquitted the group's chairman Hussain Dawood, director Abdul Samad Dawood, and former CEO Sheikh Imran ul Haq, in the award of the LNG contract to Engro Elengy Terminal Limited.

The company's statement said no evidence was found to prove any illegality, irregularity, or loss to the national exchequer.

"Engro Corporation welcomes this much awaited decision of the Accountability Court. Engro has always strived to act in a fair and transparent manner in all its business and commercial commitments."