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LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is mulling giving a ‘last chance’ to the Sharif family members to join investigation before it files four references against them by Sept 8.

“NAB is considering issuing a third and final notice to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his sons — Hussain and Hassan — daughter Maryam, son-in-law retired Capt Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to join investigation before it files four references against them,” a senior NAB official told Dawn on Thursday.

He said three references would be filed against Mr Sharif and his children and son-in-law and one against Mr Dar. “Issuance of arrest warrants for the Sharif family members for failing to appear before NAB (for third consecutive times) was also discussed by the bureau on Thursday. However, it is the prerogative of NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry to take a decision in this regard,” he said.

The official further said NAB on Thursday also prepared a comprehensive report with regard to investigation against the Sharif family in the cases pending against them to the monitoring judge of the Supreme Court.

Another official said NAB would seek direction from the apex court after submitting the report as how to proceed further against the Sharif family members after their ‘non-cooperation’ with it (NAB). He said NAB might ask the apex court whether to issue arrest warrants for the Sharif family members for their failure to join investigation. “We have informed the Supreme Court in the report about a complete non-cooperative conduct of the Sharif family and sought further guidance (from it),” he said.

On the other hand, the Sharif family is determined not to appear before NAB come what may. Amjad Pervaiz, the counsel for the Sharifs, has already written to NAB saying its investigation is “mere eyewash”. The proceedings of the combined investigation team were a violation of the NAB Ordinance, 1999, and the Bureau’s SOPs in dealing with such cases, advocate Amjad Pervaiz said.

He is of the view as per the law and NAB’s process, a case is supposed to pass through various stages including the verification of a complaint, the authorisation of inquiry and upgrade of the inquiry into investigation after due appraisal of material and evidence in accordance with the law at various tiers of the Bureau’s hierarchy.

Proceedings stepped up

Responding to this argument of the Sharif’s counsel, the NAB official told Dawn that in order to complete the probe within the stipulated time given by the apex court the bureau was following the legal procedure in accordance with the law. “We have fast-tracked the proceedings,” he commented.

According to PML-N leader Mohammad Mehdi, Mr Sharif and his children would not appear before NAB till a verdict on his review petition against his disqualification in the SC is decided. Mr Dar has also taken up this plea before NAB.

According to the NAB official, the references against the Sharif family members would also contain findings of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the SC to probe their offshore holdings.

These references will be related to the Avenfield Properties (London), Azizia Steel Mills, Hill Metal Company and the other companies of the Sharif family that include Flagship Investments, Hartstone Properties, Que Holdings, Quint Eaton Place 2, Quint Saloane, Quaint, Flagship Securities, Quint Gloucester Place, Quint Paddington, Flagship Developments, Alanna Services (BVI), Lankin SA (BVI), Chadron, Ansbacher, Coomber and Capital FZE, Dubai.

Mr Dar would face reference for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income. According to the JIT, Mr Dar invested 5.5m British pounds in Baraq Holdings in the UAE but source of these funds were not disclosed.

The JIT has also disclosed that Maryam Nawaz was a beneficial owner of Avenfield Properties as well as offshore companies of Nescoll & Nielsen. The JIT report has also charged Ms Maryam with submitting fake/falsified documents to the JIT which is a criminal offence.

NAB has been given six weeks from the date of the court’s order (July 28) in the Panama Papers case to file references in accountability court against the Sharif family members.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2017