ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was told on Friday that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was also approached by the aggrieved parties after failing in getting the 3.5 million tonnes LNG contract to get help of the prime secret agency to investigate a billion dollar scam of awarding the contract to a French firm. This disclosure was made by The News correspondent Rauf Klasra before a six-member SC bench during hearing in the suo moto notice on the scam.
After getting satisfied with the statement, evidences and counter questions put to Klasra, the CJ directed the Ministry of Petroleum, former Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Fauji Foundation MD Lt Gen Rab Nawaz and the finance ministry bosses to submit their comments and fixed April 12 for next hearing. The chief justice also asked Klasra to appear on the next hearing.
After hearing the arguments of The News correspondent in his bid to establish the contents of his story, the chief justice praised his professional work and appreciated for exposing the scam. Earlier, the six-member bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had taken a suo moto of a news story published in The News on March 29.
Klasra was summoned by the SC to substantiate his story before the court. First, a three-member bench was formed to hear the case but afterwards CJ raised the numbers of judges from three to six. The members of the bench also included Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Ejaz Chaudhry.
As the court proceedings started, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry asked Klasra whether he had credible evidence to produce before the court to substantiate his story. The CJ observed that this was a big scam as a billion dollar was not a small amount. “You know a billion dollar means 80 billion in Pak currency and this is something very big, so we want to know what sort of evidence you have to substantiate this scam,” the chief justice observed.
Klasra replied the court that he had filed his story after proper investigations and official documentary evidence available with him. He told the court he not only has got officials papers supporting this scam but he also contacted all the concerned – the minister and officials of the Ministry of Petroleum – to produce a balance report. He even contacted Shaukat Tarin to get his side of the story as he was actually contacted by the aggrieved party that the lowest bidder was ignored while the highest bidder, the French company, got the lucrative contract.
Likewise, he had also got the comments of Naveeed Qamar who had rejected all these allegations, saying that he only acted in the greater interests of the country without indulging in any wrongdoing.
Replying to chief justice’s question about the authenticity of a billon dollar amount, Klasra said the figure was given to him by Shaukat Tain in response to his question about the actual loss to the national exchequer on account of awarding the contract to the a French firm. The bench was also informed that the total period of the contract was about 20 years and its total value would be around $25 billion and one billon dollar difference in the price of LNG bids should be seen in this background.
Replying to question by another member of the bench that whether any complaint was lodged with any government agency at any stage against the award of this contract through improper manner, Klasra said: “Yes, Fauji Foundation MD Lt Gen (R) Rab Nawaz had approached the ISI with the complaint that irregularities were allegedly committed in the award of the multi-billion dollar contract. However, no one knew whether the ISI had conducted any probe, and, if so, what were its findings.”
Klasra said, however, he knew that later the ISI had contacted Naveed Qamar and brought into notice that he was being accused of awarding a contract through wrong manners. He said Naveed Qamar had confirmed to him that the ISI was approached by the aggrieved party. Likewise, The News correspondent also informed the court that a complaint was lodged with the Prime Minister Secretariat but he did not know what action was taken by the officials sitting there.
The chief justice asked the reporter whether the government had taken any action on his report in the newspaper. Klasra replied that a parliamentary body was now assigned to probe the scam and submit its report to the National Assembly within seven days. Likewise, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani too had taken action on this report and during the course of ECC meeting, he had asked his newly appointed Finance Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to look into the financial side of the deal before giving approval for the issuance of sovereign guarantees of $300 million to the French firm.
The chief justice also wanted to know whether the contract had been signed or it was still in the process of being signed. Klasra said as far as he knows the deal was yet to be formally singed as the government had not issued sovereign guarantees to the French firm.
Justice Ramday told Klasra: “You have again filed a story which has forced us to take action. But, when we take action, then it is said that the judges were crossing their limits.” However, the chief justice praised the work of Klasra and said he had helped to exposed a scam of a billion dollar which was a big amount and should have been spent on some useful purpose like health and education. The chief justice said corruption would not be tolerated at all cost.
A seven-member larger bench of the apex court, consisting of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Justice Ch Ijaz Ahmed, Justice Tariq Pervez, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday gave the directives while hearing a suo motu case.
The apex court also directed the Finance Ministry to file a reply by the same date to clarify its position in the case.
Rauf Klasra, the journalists who unveiled the scandal, gave the minutes of the Economic Coordination Committee in the court.
During the hearing, the bench observed that the court would not pass any restraint order at this stage of the case, but after fixing responsibility those found guilty would be tried under criminal proceedings.
The journalist apprised the court that of how officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources awarded a multi-billion dollar contract for 3.5 million tonnes of LNG import to a French firm and ignored the lowest bid jointly offered by the Fauji Foundation and Vitol. The court also issued notices to the Fauji Foundation and Vitol and adjourned the hearing for April 12.