ISLAMABAD: Former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari was acquitted by a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court in the SGS-Cotecna references against him Tuesday.
SGS-Cotecna reference pertains to the award of pre-shipment contracts in which the accused had allegedly received six per cent kickback.
The court said the former Federal Board of Revenue chairman AR Siddiqui had already been acquitted in the case and questioned prolonging the case against co-accused Asif Zardari.
The NAB court said the accountability body was unable to provide solid evidence and that the documentation presented in court was incomplete and in the form of photocopies rather than original documents.
Speaking to journalists after the verdict was announced, the PPP leader's counsel Farooq H. Naek said his client had been falsely implicated in the "politically motivated" cases. He maintained there was no documentation implicating his client, adding that Zardari had to spend eight years in jail while his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was forced into exile, which affected their family life.
During the Nov 11 hearing of the SGS-Cotecna reference, Additional Deputy Prosecutor General (ADPG) NAB Chaudhry Riaz said the bureau had submitted the relevant record before the court, and that the original record had gone missing from the custody of the Ehtesab bench. Riaz had said the NAB also produced witnesses to authenticate the evidence and it was up to the court to decide the fate of these documents.
There is, however, one reference still pending against Zardari in the Rawalpindi accountability court.
Asif Zardari had filed applications with the accountability court Islamabad seeking acquittal in the SGS and Cotecna corruption cases in Feb 2015.
In the applications, the former president’s counsel had stated there was no incriminating evidence against his client.
He also argued that the cases were constituted on a political basis.
On Dec 22, 2014, the accountability court had dismissed Zardari’s applications for acquittal in the SGS and Cotecna cases.
The same court on Dec 12, 2014, had accepted his application in the Ursus tractors and import of gold corruption cases. Later, NAB filed appeals with the Islamabad High Court against the acquittal of Mr Zardari.
On May 28, 2014, the accountability court had also acquitted Zardari from the polo ground corruption reference.
The counsel for the former president filed applications in the five cases in 2013 out of which three were already accepted while the SGS and Cotecna cases were left under trial with the Islamabad accountability court.