ISLAMABAD: In the much-talked-about Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import contract case, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has prepared a reference against 10 accused persons, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail, and former Pakistan State Oil (PSO) managing director Sheikh Imranul Haq, sources told Dawn on Monday.
The reference will be placed in the forthcoming NAB Executive Board Meeting (EBM); after its approval by the board, it will be filed in an accountability court in Islamabad for trial.
Both the main accused persons, Mr Abbasi and Mr Ismail, have been behind bars for over four months in this case, while Mr Haq obtained pre-arrest bail last Tuesday from the Islamabad High Court.
Of the 10 persons accused, against whom the reference has been framed, two are said to have turned approvers. The source said that NAB believed that corruption of some Rs20 billion had occurred in the scam.
Former prime minister, finance minister are among suspects
Media reports said that recently arrested former secretary of the petroleum ministry, Abid Saeed, has turned approver in the LNG case and it was in light of his statements and an investigation that Mr Abbasi was arrested.
The NAB notice served on Mr Abbasi said that the “competent authority has taken cognisance of an offence, committed by you [Mr Abbasi] under the provisions of NAO 1999 on allegations of deceitfully, fraudulently and dishonestly causing loss to the national exchequer, the misuse of authority, and obtaining pecuniary advantage through corrupt, dishonest and illegal means during award of LNG terminal-1”.
A NAB document said: “The investigations have revealed that you are in possession of information/evidence regarding the award of LNG terminal-1 to M/s EETPT [a private firm] etc which relates to the commission of the said offence.”
In April, the government imposed a travel ban on Mr Abbasi, ex-finance minister Miftah Ismail, and five other persons in this case.
According to an earlier notification, the sum involved in the case was Rs36.969bn.
Mr Abbasi is accused of awarding a 15-year contract for a terminal against the rules when he was the petroleum minister in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet. The case was closed by NAB in 2016 but then reopened in 2018.
On Jan 2, NAB’s EBM authorised investigations against Mr Abbasi, being former minister for petroleum and natural resources, for his alleged involvement in irregularities in the import of LNG.
However, Mr Abbasi has said several times in the recent past that he did not commit any illegality in the award of contracts for LNG import, and could therefore prove his innocence at any forum. He has presented the view that the import of LNG was the need of the time in 2013, when the country was facing an acute shortage of gas.
This is the first NAB case against Mr Abbasi.
The NAB document said that the existing chemical terminal of Engro Group was rented out by the government at “an astronomical cost” of Rs27 million per day for 15 years — with a total amount of Rs15bn; the rent was paid by Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) and PSO to Engro [a company of Hussain Dawood] for the purpose of handling LNG imported from Qatar on behalf of the government/PSO. The rental amount, according to the document, is being paid to Engro regardless of whether Engro’s terminal is used or not.
It said that an existing, underutilised, state-owned (SSGCL) petroleum liquid gas (PLG) terminal was already available at Port Qasim, which was equally capable of being retrofitted and used for the import/handling of LNG, at a cost of Rs30-40m only.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019