Ex-CBR chief acquitted in Cotecna case
RAWALPINDI: The Accountability Court No III, Rawalpindi, on Friday acquitted former CBR chairman A R Siddiqui of charges in the Cotecna corruption case due to inadequate evidence.
While announcing the decision, Accountability Court Judge Jahandad Khan Banth said that the main accused in the case, President Asif Ali Zardari, would have to face a trial after his presidential immunity expired. Another main accused in this case, Begum Nusrat Bhutto, also got immunity due to her illness but the court declared that the trial proceedings would be initiated against her once she recovered.
The court gave its verdict 14 years after the case was filed in 1997 before an Ehtesab bench of the Lahore High Court by then Ehtesab Bureau Chairman Senator Saifur Rehman. As many as 24 prosecution witnesses were examined.
Earlier, Cotecna and SGS were the same case but were later separated and tried separately. The case was shifted to the Accountability Court, Rawalpindi, in 2001. It is pertinent to mention here that there were seven directors of the Cotecna company, also co-accused in the case. The court has already declared them proclaimed offenders after they did not face the trial. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in August had closed its evidence against the accused while A R Siddiqui was left the sole accused under trial.
Cotecna is a corruption reference for awarding pre-shipment contracts to a Swiss company “Cotenca”. As per the allegations, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband President Asif Ali Zardari were accused of taking six percent of the total revenue of pre-shipment to award the contract worth $131m. The said company was to supervise Pakistan’s Customs services. Begum Nusrat Bhutto, A R Siddiqui and six Swiss directors of the Cotecna Company were co-accused in the case.
The charges against A R Siddiqui were that he, in a presentation to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), supported the idea of awarding a Custom services supervision contract to pre-shipment companies whereas the idea was not only turned down by the first government of Mian Nawaz Sharif but also by the caretaker government of Moeen Qureshi. It was also alleged that while awarding the contract, the former CBR chairman neglected formalities as per the law.