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Sharifs summoned in Flagship Investment case

September 14, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hussain and Hassan have been summoned by the accountability court of Islamabad in connection with a reference pertaining to the establishment of 16 companies in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed three references on Sept 8 against Mr Sharif and his family, and another reference against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The three references against the Sharif family are related to the Flagship Investment Ltd, the Avenfield (London) properties and Jeddah-based Al-Azizia Company and Hill Metal Establishment. The fourth reference filed against Mr Dar pertains to the charge of possessing assets beyond one’s known sources of income.

The accountability court took up the reference titled “Flagship Investment Ltd and 15 other companies” first.

On Wednesday, the accountability court judge summoned Mr Sharif and his sons on Sept 19, the date of the next hearing. However, neither the former PM nor his sons are likely to appear before the accountability court on the date.

PML-N says it will decide whether or not to appear in court after SC’s verdict on review pleas

According to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mohammad Tallal Chaudhry, since the Sharif family had filed review petitions before the Supreme Court against the July 28 verdict, they will not attend proceedings in the trial court.

On July 28, the apex court had not only disqualified Mr Sharif from holding the office of prime minister but had also directed NAB to file four references against the Sharif family and Mr Dar in a trial court within six weeks. The accountability judge has been directed to conclude the proceedings within six months.

The apex court has also assigned Justice Ijazul Ahsan a supervisory role to monitor the progress of the accountability court regarding the references filed against the ousted PM.

‘Loopholes in verdict’

Mr Chaudhry said there were prima facie certain loopholes in the July 28 verdict over which the Sharif family had filed a review petition. He said after the decision of the review petition, the Sharif family would decide whether to appear before the accountability court or not.

The Flagship Investment Ltd reference is based on information NAB had obtained from the report filed by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court to probe money laundering allegations against the former PM and his family.

The reference says: “[The] JIT comprising representatives of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the Military Intelligence (MI), the National Account­ability Bureau (NAB), the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) conducted an investigation against the above said accused persons, collected evidence and submitted its final investigation report on July 10, 2017.”

It states: “The Final Investigation Report filed by the JIT, and its annexure, list of witnesses and documents… are an integral part of this reference.”

NAB had alleged that Mr Sharif and his sons had used 16 companies “to manage/acquire expensive properties”.

These companies includ­ed the Flagship Investments Limited, the Hartstone Properties Limited, the Que Holdings Limited, the Quint Eaton Place 2 Limited, the Quint Saloane Limited, the Quaint Limited, the Flagship Securities Limited, the Quint Gloucester Place Limited, the Quint Gloucester Limited, the Quint Paddington Limited, the Flagship Developments Limited, the Alanna Services Limited, the Lankin SA, the Chadron Inc, the Anshacher Inc, the Coomber Inc and Capital FZE (Dubai).

The JIT had concluded that the network of companies established and dissolved over time appeared to have been designed to camouflage the activities of Respondent 8 (Hassan Nawaz) and his companies, as well as to create a smoke screen in the way of discovering unaccounted wealth, the purchase of properties in the UK and amassing wealth and properties.

The JIT, however, had admitted in its report that it had failed to “unearth the sources of funds and persons behind the underlying transactions, but it has been severely constrained due to the information that is being withheld from the JIT by the respondents”. Thus far, the Sharif family has not been able to furnish records that can provide meaningful explanation of sources of funds, the origin and acquisition of properties.

The JIT report, which is integral to the Flagship Investments Limited reference, said, “it appears that multiple transactions with other associated companies of Flagship Investments Limited, which involved huge sums of money, was carried out to layer the flow of funds so that the real source / origin of funds and its utilisation could not be easily identified.”

The reference, however, said that “requests for Mutual Legal Assistance (to obtain relevant record from abroad) have been forwarded by the JIT and response of the same is still awaited, which will be placed before this Honourable Court, when received from foreign jurisdiction.”

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2017