LAHORE: An accountability court on Wednesday extended physical remand of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz and her cousin Yousaf Abbas for another 14 days in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills and money laundering case.
The two suspects were produced before the court by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amid extraordinary security arrangements outside the judicial complex where party workers had gathered in large numbers. While they could not make it to the court, Maryam’s husband retired captain Mohammad Safdar and other PML-N leaders including Senator Pervez Rashid, former governor Mohammad Zubair, Shaista Pervez, Ali Pervez and Uzma Bokhari managed to attend the proceedings in a crowded courtroom.
When Judge Naeem Arshad resumed the hearing, NAB special prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan submitted a progress report about ongoing investigations and a request in writing for further remand of the PML-N vice president and her cousin.
Opposing the investigation report and the request, defence counsel Amjad Pervez said the subject matter had already been probed by the anti-graft watchdog as per the Supreme Court decision in the Panama Papers case. He argued the ongoing inquiry amounted to “double jeopardy and malicious prosecution”.
However, the judge allowing NAB’s request extended their remand for 14 days with the direction that they be produced in court again on Sept 4.
While being escorted back to NAB headquarters, Maryam avoided responding to queries when reporters approached her outside the courtroom. A journalist quoted her as saying that NAB had warned her against talking to the media.
Later, her husband and party leader Mr Safdar was seen snatching a club from a policeman when he was about to hit one of the PML-N workers outside the judicial complex.
In its progress report filed in the court, NAB claimed that the evidence so far collected against Maryam showed that she had been involved in acts of corruption. She had aided and abetted co-suspects including her father Nawaz Sharif and others in acquiring around Rs2 billion funds disproportionate to their known sources of income and laundering the money.
According to the findings, Maryam was appointed a director in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills in 1992 and she retained the post till 1997. She served as chief executive officer of the mills during 1995-96 while she was holding its 864,000 ordinary shares. She became the largest shareholder with around 12 million shares (47pc ownership) between 2008 and 2010. Later in 2015-16, her father Nawaz Sharif became the major shareholder holding more than 12 million shares (46pc ownership), the report added.
It said some documents revealed that Maryam had acquired the shares from three foreign nationals namely Saeed Saif Bin Jabar Al-Sweidi, Hani Ahmad Jamjoom and Sheikh Zakauddin.
NAB claimed that the suspect when confronted with the documents kept changing her stance how she had acquired the largest number of shares in the mills. “Initially the accused admitted these shares were purchased by her, later on accused stated that the said shares were just transferred in her name without any consideration,” it added.
While she claimed that her grandfather might have some understanding with the foreign nationals, she could not come up with any plausible response when she was told that the transactions in questions were made after the death of her grandfather, the report stated.
The NAB report said 11 million shares of the sugar mills were fraudulently transferred to UAE business tycoon Nasser Abdulla Lootah while Maryam gifted seven million shares to her cousin Yousaf Abbas allegedly in an attempt to commit money laundering of around Rs410 million. The shares transferred to Mr Lootah were later transferred in the name of her brother, Hussain Nawaz, in December 2013, it added.
The anti-graft watchdog said Maryam and Abbas were not cooperating with the investigators and withholding information to defeat the process of inquiry. Therefore, further custody of the suspects was required, stated the bureau.
Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019