RETIRED captain Mohammad Safdar escorts his wife Maryam Nawaz to an accountability court on Wednesday.—AP
RETIRED captain Mohammad Safdar escorts his wife Maryam Nawaz to an accountability court on Wednesday.—AP

LAHORE: PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz told an accountability court on Wednesday that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigators during her physical remand were repeatedly asking her why her grandfather handed over his business to her.

“They had no questions about the alleged corruption of a single penny during the 42-day remand, but were only asking the reason for inheriting the business from my grandfather,” said Ms Maryam after presiding judge Chaudhry Ameer Mohammad Khan permitted her to speak during the hearing of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

“And I have told them a hundred times that grandparents are supposed to hand over their businesses to their offspring, not neighbours,” she said in a crowded courtroom. She claimed that the investigating officers were more interested in political gossip rather than asking queries about the charges.

“If NAB needed documents it should not have arrested me at the initial stage of the case. How can an arrested person furnish documents?” she said while rejecting the investigation report filed by the bureau.

Prosecutor seeks 15-day extension in physical remand of Maryam Nawaz

Ms Maryam claimed before the court that she had been arrested for holding massive public meetings, which were even censored in the media.

Earlier, Special Prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan filed a report in the court seeking a 15-day extension in the physical remand of Ms Maryam and her cousin Yousaf Abbas, pleading that the suspects remained non-cooperative in the investigation.

He said that a huge influx of cash was deposited in the accounts of the sugar mills between 2010 and 2019 whereby approximately Rs900 million was credited into its two accounts. Ms Maryam aided and abetted her father and family members in acquisition of and laundering an amount of Rs2 billion, which was disproportionate to known sources of income. Other beneficiaries of the sugar mills’ funds are Ms Maryam’s late mother Kulsoom Nawaz, brothers Hussain and Hassan and sister Asma Nawaz.

The prosecutor told the court that during the remand both suspects were confronted with financial records of the mills pertaining to loans obtained from other companies of the Sharif group, but they failed to explain the transactions.

He said the suspects also failed to justify $15.52m (equal to Rs400m at conversion rate in 1992) shown as loan to the sugar mills by three offshore companies. He requested the court to allow further remand of the suspects to procure evidence, detect hidden assets and recover crime proceeds.

However, defence counsel Amjad Pervaiz opposed the remand and said the investigation report of NAB was contrary to facts. He said the properties and business in question was owned by Mian Sharif from 1992 to 1999 after which he had handed them over to his grandchildren. He said Yousaf Abbas never held any public office, adding that receiving foreign remittances was not a crime under any law.

The counsel further stated that the joint investigation team constituted by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case had already investigated the matter of Chaudhry Sugar Mills and found no illegality in it. He argued that NAB had no ground to seek remand.

However, the judge granted seven-day remand of the suspects and directed NAB to produce them on Sept 25.

A large number of PML-N workers made it to the complex, however, were denied access to the courtroom.

NAB statement

In a statement issued after the court proceedings, NAB claimed that no political question had been asked from Ms Maryam during interrogation.

It said investigation officers were highly professional and had asked questions related to the case. Therefore, the impression of asking political questions from the suspect was totally baseless and concocted.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2019