ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Rawalpindi on Tuesday filed a reference against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail and former Pakistan State Oil (PSO) managing director Sheikh Imranul Haq and 7 other accomplices in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import contract case.
The accountability bureau submitted the reference in an accountability court in Islamabad. According to the reference, one company received benefits of over Rs21 billion between March 2015 and September of this year.
Additionally, the reference stated that the national exchequer will suffer a loss of Rs47bn by 2029 because of the contract.
Former OGRA chairman Saeed Ahmed Khan, incumbent OGRA chairperson Uzma Adil Khan, Engro Corp. Chairman Hussain Dawood, Engro Corp. Director Abdul Sammad Dawood, former PQA chairman Agha Jan Akhtar, former member Ogra Aamir Naseem, former PSO MD Shahid M. Islam have also been named in the reference.
Both main accused persons — Abbasi and Ismail — have been behind bars for over four months in this case, while Haq obtained pre-arrest bail last Tuesday from the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
On Monday, a media report claimed that of 10 persons accused, against whom the reference has been framed, two are said to have turned approvers. According to the publication, the source added that NAB believed that corruption of some Rs20 billion had occurred in the scam.
Abbasi was arrested in connection with the case in July.
On Jan 2, the NAB Executive Board had authorised two investigations against Abbasi, being former minister for petroleum and natural resources — one for his alleged involvement in irregularities in LNG import and the other related to the appointment of Naeemuddin Khan as president of the Bank of Punjab.
He is accused of awarding a 15-year contract for a terminal to Elehngy Terminal Pakistan Ltd – a subsidiary of Engro Corporation – 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.
The former prime minister had said several times in the recent past that he had not committed any illegality in the award of contracts for LNG import and, therefore, he could prove his innocence at any forum.
He was of the view that the import of LNG was the need of the hour in 2013 when the country was facing an acute shortage of gas.
In the case, not only Abbasi but former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was also accused of misusing authority by awarding the contract of LNG terminal to 15 companies of their choice.
It is the first NAB case against Abbasi, who had served as prime minister for almost a year after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court on July 28, 2017.
Interestingly, during the previous PML-N government, the Karachi NAB in its regional board meeting had closed the inquiry against Khaqan Abbasi in December 2016. But the PTI opposed the decision and claimed that “the inquiry was stopped despite the fact that it had been proved that the contract had been awarded in a non-transparent manner”.
The then Karachi NAB director-general had remarked in a meeting: “After exhaustive discussion, it has been decided that it is an ongoing project and any intervention by NAB at this juncture will jeopardise the efforts of the provision of LNG from the project of public/national importance. It is, therefore, decided [to close the] inquiry [at] our end.”
However, the NAB inquiry had revealed that the management of Inter-State Gas Systems (ISGS) and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) selected M/s Engro as a successful bidder for LNG terminal at Karachi Port in a non-transparent manner.
The NAB inquiry found that the SSGCL signed a 15-year contract with a subsidiary company of Engro for re-gasification of LNG at fixed daily processing charges.
The government authorised the Pakistan State Oil to procure LNG on behalf of the SSGCL.
At the time of closure of the inquiry, incumbent Finance Minister Asad Umar had said: “NAB closed down inquiry against Khaqan Abbasi, though it was confirmed that irregularities had been committed in the award of the LNG contract.”
However, NAB reopened the inquiry against Abbasi in October 2018.
In February, Abbasi appeared before NAB and recorded his statement.
In April, the government imposed a travel ban on Abbasi, former finance minister Miftah Ismail, and five other persons in the same case.