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LAHORE: The National Accoun­ta­bility Bureau’s combined investigation teams (CITs) on Friday recommended freezing of the assets of Sharif family members in the references to be filed in an accountability court next week.

“The CITs of Lahore and Rawalpindi have recommended to NAB chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry to freeze the assets of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his children — Hussain, Hasan and Maryam — son-in-law retired Capt Safdar and relative Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the four references to be filed in the accountability court, Rawalpindi, next week,” a senior NAB official told Dawn on Friday. He said the CITs had also recommended freezing of bank accounts of Mr Sharif, his children, his son-in-law and Mr Dar.

“Both the Lahore and Rawalpindi CITs of the bureau have submitted their recommendations in this regard to the chairman who is authorised either to include or reject this recommendation (freezing of assets) in the references against the Sharif family members,” the official said. Mr Chaudhry will chair a meeting of the executive board in Islamabad in a few days to give authorisation of filing the four references against the Sharif family.

PML-N says the former prime minister and his children will return to Pakistan and face the cases

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said all the cases reopened against the Sharif family had already been decided by the courts and nothing proved against the former premier. The PML-N said Mr Sharif and his children would return to the country to face these cases. “Mian Sahib never evaded accountability in the past and he will not do so in this case too. He will soon return to the country to face the NAB references,” PML-N leader from Punjab Mohammad Mehdi told Dawn.

Mr Mehdi said Mr Sharif had been acquitted in all the cases being probed by NAB today. “Even the NAB chairman had told the Supreme Court that nothing had been established against Mr Sharif and his family members in these cases and there was no point in reopening them,” he said.

Mr Sharif, along with his sons, has been in London to see his ailing wife Begum Kulsoom, who underwent successful throat cancer surgery. Maryam Nawaz is busy running the campaign of her mother in the NA-120 Lahore by-poll, which is scheduled for Sept 17.

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

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

Wajid Zia, the JIT head, who is also Federal Investigation Agency’s additional director, has already recorded his statement before the Lahore and Rawalpindi CITs regarding its investigation into offshore companies of the Sharifs and money-laundering allegations against them.

The CITs have also discussed ‘Volume-10’ of the JIT report that dealt with the mutual legal business agreements between the Sharif family and different foreign governments. “Some part of it may also be included in the references,” a source said.

The four 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 a 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 sources 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.

The Sharifs and Mr Dar did not join the investigation taking the plea that they would not appear before NAB till a verdict on their review petition against apex court’s July 28 verdict was decided.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2017