ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) challenged in the Supreme Court on Friday an order of the Lahore High Court granting bail to Maryam Nawaz in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case.

The NAB prosecutor general in an appeal contended before the apex court that the LHC division bench did not appreciate the evidence and the order granting bail to the PML-N vice president was erroneous.

The LHC division bench had on Nov 4 granted the post-arrest bail to Maryam, the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, on merit, observing that the “bail cannot be withheld as a punishment”. The bench, while deciding a charge of abetment, aiding and conniving on the petitioner in acquiring assets allegedly beyond means, observed that the analysis of Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) that led to the impugned inquiry reflected transfer of money from the account of the former premier to the CSM, but the name of the petitioner [Ms Nawaz] did not figure anywhere.

LHC granted post-arrest bail to Nawaz Sharif’s daughter on merit in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case

With respect to a huge amount transferred by UAE nationals as consideration for shares in the CSM, the LHC bench observed that the absence of a direct mention of the petitioner in the report did not suggest that she actively participated, connived, abetted or aided to acquire assets beyond known sources of income.

In its appeal, NAB argued that the LHC “erred in not considering that the captioned constitutional petition [of Maryam Nawaz] was neither maintainable nor competent and suffered from legal infirmities”.

“The impugned order whereby post-arrest bail was granted to the Respondent No. 1 [Maryam Nawaz] is on the face of it arbitrary, erroneous, perverse, factually, incorrect and passed without assigning lawful reasons while misconstruing the provisions of section 9 (a) of NAO,” it said.

Giving the background of the case, the appeal said the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) had forwarded the STR to the NAB chairman regarding various transactions in the accounts of the CSM, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz and various employees of the accused persons.

It said the competent authority had authorised an inquiry against Maryam Nawaz into the allegations of commission of offences of corruption and corrupt practices as well as money laundering. Subsequently, the NAB chairman issued her arrest warrants on Aug 8. During the physical remand, she was asked about the related record of the sugar mill and its acquisition in 2011, but she failed to explain the sources of funds for making investment of Rs260 million and contributing to the sale price of Rs1200m, the appeal claimed.

NAB reproduced a chart of the alleged transfer of money according to which the transfer of shareholding of CSM started from Saeed Saif bin Jabar Al Swadei and Shaikh Zaka-ud-Din and went through Maryam Nawaz, Yousaf Abbas, Nasser Abdullah Lootah, Hussain Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif and then Yousaf Abbas and Abdul Aziz Abbas.

However, LHC bench, while discussing the above-mentioned transaction, had observed that as far as the ownership of shares of UAE national Nasser Abdullah Hussain Lootah was concerned, the official record of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) did not show that he was not the shareholder. It noted that Mr Lootah admitted before NAB that he sent the money out of investment made by the petitioner’s family in real estate on their instructions back to them, though he did not own any share in the CSM.

It may be mentioned that Mr Lootah, who was a co-accused and an absconder in the fake bank accounts case, had in August turned an approver and recorded his testimony before an accountability court.

The LHC bench had further observed the amount of $4.885m sent by Mr Lootah to co-suspect Yousaf Abbas as profit/investment from real estate made by the petitioner’s family would shift the onus back to the prosecution to prove it as a dubious transaction.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2019