The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday obtained 14-day physical remand of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case.
The court ordered the accountability bureau to present Nawaz on October 25.
Sharif had been arrested earlier in the day by NAB from Kot Lakhpat jail and presented before an accountability court in Lahore.
Members of the Sharif family are accused of being involved in money laundering under the garb of sale/purchase of Chaudhry Sugar Mills Ltd shares.
NAB has accused Nawaz of being a direct beneficiary of CSM and his daughter, Maryam — who was arrested in connection with the case in August along with her cousin Yousuf Abbas — of holding over 12 million shares in the sugar mills.
A source had earlier revealed that in January 2018, the then PML-N government’s financial monitoring unit had reported to NAB a large suspicious transaction involving billions of rupees in Chaudhry Sugar Mills.
The CSM reference is the latest in a series of court cases involving the former prime minister. The saga began with his ouster from office in 2017 through the Panama Papers verdict to his convictions in two subsequent corruption references involving the Al Azizia Steel Mills and the Avenfield Apartments.
A NAB team, after taking the former premier into custody today from Kot Lakhpat jail — where he has been serving a seven-year sentence after being found guilty in the Al Azizia reference — brought him to an accountability court in Lahore to secure a 15-day physical remand.
Judge Chaudhry Ameer Muhammad Khan questioned where Nawaz was, after which he appeared on the rostrum.
During proceedings, which were disrupted by party workers attempting to take pictures with the former premier, NAB prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan alleged that in 2016, Nawaz had been the largest shareholder in CSM and had retained his shareholding in Chaudhry Sugar Mills as well as in Shamim Sugar Mills.
The NAB prosecutor had further alleged that Maryam, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and other Sharif family members had also been shareholders in CSM.
He had stated that CSM's bank accounts had received foreign funds, adding that in 1992 one foreign company alone had provided Nawaz with Rs55.5 million. Awan said that they still do not know who the owner of this foreign company is.
After the NAB prosecutor concluded his statements, Nawaz's counsel, Advocate Amjad Pervez, denied that his client had ever been a shareholder or director in CSM.
"This is not the first time that Nawaz Sharif's assets are under scrutiny," he said, adding that opposing governments had previously also investigated the formation of the companies, but nothing was found.
He further said Nawaz had no role in the formation of CSM.
According to Pervez, all of Nawaz's children had instead been directors and shareholders in the sugar mill. "For 30 years, Nawaz has declared his assets," he said.
Pervez said that a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had already investigated all the issues, after which NAB had filed a reference in Islamabad.
"There is no justification for another investigation; this is a fake case," he said.
He also argued that there was no need for the court to give NAB physical remand of the former premier and alleged that his client had been wrongfully arrested.
"NAB's dishonesty in the case is evident and this is just one more case being formed on political grounds," said Pervez.
He also described NAB's "disclosures" in the CSM case as "baseless".
Nawaz's noted that said his client was already in prison and if NAB had wanted to conduct an investigation, they could have simply visited him in his cell.
"Nawaz Sharif is serving his sentence after a trial and his arrest is not as per the law. Nawaz should not be handed over to the agency on physical remand for even an hour," he argued.
He had further pleaded that Nawaz be discharged in the CSM case.
Nawaz's statement in court
In his statement before the court, the former premier said NAB officials had visited him only once in jail and he had answered all questions he could, adding that he had not shared information which he did not have knowledge of.
Nawaz said that he had requested to meet his lawyer and alleged that he was not permitted to do so.
"The allegations being made against me are fake. NAB is conducting an investigation on declared assets," he said.
He said that NAB officials had come and stated the grounds for the arrest.
"The allegations that have been made are baseless. Our name was in 32 industries, tell us where there was corruption."
Nawaz said that he had been a minister as well as the prime minister three times and said that if corruption was proven during these time periods he would withdraw not just from the case, but from politics.
"[Former dictator retired Gen Pervez] Musharraf created NAB for me. Musharraf had only one target which was Nawaz Sharif. NAB is only being used against PML-N and the opposition."
"I am already in jail, if there is such an enmity [with me] tell me where they want to take me."
"If they think that PML-N will panic and bow [to pressure], this will never happen."
As Nawaz presented his statement, supporters chanted slogans in the courtroom. The judge told him only to speak about the case.
Ahead of the former premier's appearance, routes leading to the accountability court had been closed.
The PML-N leadership — including spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, PML-N senator Asif Kirmani, Nawaz's son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, Pervaiz Rasheed, and Ameer Muqam — and a large number of party workers had gathered outside the court in a show of support.
Earlier NAB references
Nawaz is currently serving a seven-year sentence in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case at Kot Lakhpat jail, which was handed to him in December 2018. The same court which pronounced the verdict had acquitted Nawaz in a second reference related to Flagship Investments.
The reference pertained to the Sharifs being unable to justify the source of the funds provided to set up Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment (HME) in Saudi Arabia, making it a case of owning assets beyond means.
Earlier, in July 2018, Sharif had been handed a 10-year sentence in the Avenfield properties corruption reference.
Nawaz was convicted under NAO 1999 9(a)(v), which states: "A holder of a public office, or any other person, is said to commit or to have committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practices [...] if he or any of his dependents or benamidar owns, possesses, or has acquired right or title in any assets or holds irrevocable power of attorney in respect of any assets or pecuniary resources disproportionate to his known sources of income, which he cannot reasonably account for or maintains a standard of living beyond that which is commensurate with his sources of income."
The sentence, however, has since been suspended by the Islamabad High Court and is pending its decision in the matter.
Additional reporting by Muhammad Taimoor and Ali Waqar