ISLAMABAD: The accountability court will decide on Dec 24 the fate of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al Azizia and Flagship Investment references.
On Wednesday, Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik reserved judgement in both the references.
After the lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed and the prosecution concluded final arguments, the court deliberated upon the date on which the verdict could be announced. The special prosecutor of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) suggested that the court may announce the decision on both references on Friday. However, the judge calculated that Dec 21 would be too soon to write the detailed decision in the cases. Judge Malik asked the prosecution about the deadline and was told that the Supreme Court had set Dec 24.
Deadline for completion of trial was fixed by Supreme Court
Mr Sharif stated that since September 2017, he had appeared before the accountability courts some 165 times. He added that after having witnessed the proceedings, it appeared that the references in question were based on assumption and perception, pointing out that he had served the country twice as chief minister and three times as prime minister. Mr Sharif maintained that he had never been involved in any sort of corruption, or received any kickbacks. Further, he produced before the court documents related to properties purchased and sold by Hasan Nawaz through his UK-based companies.
The prosecution, on the other hand, raised objections regarding these documents, arguing that they were not certified as prescribed in the law of evidence. Advocate Haris requested the court for a week to submit certified copes, but prosecution opposed the request on the basis that this would frustrate the timeframe set by the apex court.
In September 2017, NAB filed three references against Mr Sharif. Earlier, on July 28, the SC verdict had, besides disqualifying the prime minister from his position, also directed the accountability authority to file three references – regarding Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia, and Flagship Investment – before the accountability court.
On July 6, accountability judge Mohammad Bashir handed down convictions to Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Capt Mohammad Safdar (retd) in the Avenfield Properties reference and jailed them for 10 years, seven years and one year respectively. But on Sept 19, the Islamabad High Court granted bail after suspending the sentence. NAB’s appeal against the suspension of the sentence remains pending before the SC.
The two references against Hussain and Hasan Nawaz, that the accountability court is to take up on Dec 24, concern the setting up of the Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment in Saudi Arabia, and Flagship Investment in the UK. The accountability court has charged Mr Sharif in both references under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
As per the prosecution, Mian Mohammad Sharif [the father of former prime minister Sharif] passed away in 2004 and before the apex court, the Sharif family had taken the plea that whilst the family was in exile, the late Mian Sharif provided AED 5.4 million for Hussain Nawaz and AED 4.2m for Hasan Nawaz to establish Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment in Saudi Arabia, and Flagship Investment and 16 other companies in the UK. According to the prosecution, the Sharif family had failed to justify the source of these sums and therefore, this was a case of owning assets beyond means. The Sharif family took the stance that it was out of AED 12m that the late Mian Sharif invested with the Qatari royal family, the prosecutor said, adding that Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani had never appeared before the joint investigation team to verify the details.
During final arguments, the defence attorney maintained that the joint investigation team had made no serious effort to record the prince’s testimony, since this would have benefitted the case defence. The latter counsel has taken the plea that the late Mian Sharif established Gulf Steel Mills in the UAE in 1974, that 75 per cent shares of GSM were sold to Abdullah Kayed Ahli and the entity was re-named Ahli Steel Mills (ASM) in 1978, and the remaining 25pc shares were further sold to the ASM in 1980; this amount of AED 12m was invested with the Qatari royal family.
Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2018