NAB decides to end Zardari Cotecna case
By Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD: In the latest twist in the continuing saga of the revival of cases against PPP leaders, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has decided to withdraw the money laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari from an accountability court in Pakistan, sources in NAB told Dawn on Monday.
Known as the Cotecna pre-shipment inspection case, the case had already been withdrawn from a Swiss court, where it was also being tried, by General Pervez Musharraf’s regime.
However, it was still pending in an accountability court in Rawalpindi. In this case, the president was accused of taking commission and later depositing the money in Swiss banks.
Although the NAB’s legal team, headed by Prosecutor General Irfan Qadir, has decided to withdraw the case, the plea has so far not been filed in the accountability court concerned.
However, informed sources said that following the resignation of its last chairman Nawid Ahsan, who did not see eye to eye with the PPP government on this issue, the NAB had decided to withdraw the cases it had initiated against ruling party leaders, starting from Interior Minister Rehman Malik; on Monday the Bureau informed a court that it was withdrawing two cases it had initiated against the interior minister 13 years ago.
When asked about the issue, the NAB’s spokesman told Dawn that under section 31-B of the National Accountability Ordinance-1999, the prosecutor general of the NAB could withdraw any case with the consent of the trial court.
Some legal experts say that if the accountability court accepts NAB’s plea to withdraw the case against President Zardari, the decision of the Supreme Court in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case will become irrelevant.
While abolishing the NRO, the apex court had directed the government to reopen the money laundering cases against the president in Swiss court as well as revive all the cases that had been closed under the ordinance.
The NAB prosecutor general had told Dawn a few days back that the bureau would request the courts concerned to withdraw all such cases that lacked ‘credible evidences’.
He had then also referred to the cases against interior minister and said that: “If you go through the details of these references you will find them bogus and without any substance.”
This latest move by NAB appears to indicate a change of strategy on the part of the ruling party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose leaders have been arguing that President Zardari faced no threat from the Supreme Court’s NRO judgment as he enjoyed presidential immunity and as a result no case could be tried against him inside and outside the country.
That this line had been bought internationally was evident from Swiss Attorney General Daniel Zappelli’s statement. He had said in an interview in April this year that the money laundering cases against President Zardari in Swiss courts could not be reopened, adding that as president, Mr Zardari enjoyed immunity under international law. Hence, Mr Zapelli said, the Swiss courts could not entertain any request to reopen cases against him.
He had said that even if the Swiss authorities received a request from the Pakistan government, the Swiss government could not reopen the cases.
Sources in the law ministry had also confirmed to Dawn that the government had decided not to send any request to the Swiss authorities for reopening the case; even though NAB had written a letter addressed to the Swiss authorities requesting that the case be reopened, the law minister had not forwarded this letter.