KARACHI: An accountability court indicted former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain, ex-petroleum secretary Ejaz Chaudhry and others in an over Rs460 billion corruption reference on Friday.
Dr Asim, a close aide to former president Asif Ali Zardari, along with his accomplices, faces charges of misusing his authority for getting plots allotted fraudulently and encroaching upon state land for expansion of Dr Ziauddin Hospital/Trust, money laundering, illegal gains, kickbacks, commission through fertiliser cartel for illegal curtailment of gas for exploitative price hike and defrauding people in the name of charity hospital.
The court read out the charges against Dr Asim, Ejaz Chaudhry, former chief executive officer of the Karachi Dock Labour Board (KDLB) Safdar Hussain and former director of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) Syed Athar Hussain. However, they pleaded not guilty and opted to contest the charges.
Judge Saad Qureshi directed prosecution witnesses to record their evidence on May 14.
Abdul Hameed, group finance adviser and now administrator of Ziauddin Medical Centre, Dubai, and Masood Haider Jaffri, a former KDA director, are absconding. They have been accused of facilitating Dr Asim.
The National Accountability Bureau had filed the reference against Dr Asim in February, alleging that the former petroleum minister had deprived the state of Rs462.5bn between 2010 and 2013 — Rs450bn through the fertiliser scam, Rs9.5bn through land fraud and Rs3bn through money laundering.
According to the reference, Dr Asim approved summaries for unjustifiable and arbitrary gas curtailment in the name of load management. Ejaz Chaudhry allegedly facilitated the former minister by moving the summaries without considering rational approach.
The former secretary, it alleged, had also failed to implement a June 2011 decision of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet for providing 80 per cent gas supply to fertiliser companies.
The National Accountability Bureau alleged that Safdar Hussain was involved in illegal extension and award of KDLB contract in violation of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules and facilitated Dr Asim to take over the KDLB hospital and misuse it for private practices and referral facility.
Mr Hussain also allowed the former petroleum minister to use KDLB premises for nursing accommodation and after retirement he joined Ziauddin Hospital as general manager human resources, it maintained.
NAB also alleged that the two former directors of the KDA had granted illegal lease of two acres KDA land in North Nazimabad and 2.8 acres in Clifton in favour of Dr Asim. The bureau claimed that the former minister had also illegally and fraudulently got more plots allotted for cancer hospital, medical university and other educational purposes.
The reference said Dr Asim got Dr Ziauddin Hospital Trust registered in 1981 and although the stated objective was charity, he never adhered to it and instead used it for commercial purposes in violation of the Trust Act, 1982.
The former petroleum minister, it alleged, had used the charity hospital as a vehicle of manipulation, money laundering, accumulation of wealth and assets, fraudulently got the land allotted for trust hospital and received grants from government/public functionaries.
The registration of the trust was also illegal as it was required to be enlisted with the income tax department under section 42 of ITO 2002, it alleged.
Rangers arrested Dr Asim in August last year and placed him under three-month preventive detention for inquiry upon receiving “credible information” about his involvement in using embezzled funds to finance terrorism.
He was later handed over to police and then NAB.
GAS FIELDS: The bureau had also filed another reference of over Rs17bn against Dr Asim, Sui Southern Gas Company Limited managing director Khalid Rehman and some former senior officials of the utility and the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited for allegedly misusing their authority and fraudulently awarding contracts of five gas fields to Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2016