The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday informed the Lahore accountability court that it has recorded PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s statement in the Toshakhana reference.

According to the case filed by NAB, then-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, in order to extend illegal benefits to former Nawaz and president Asif Zardari, allegedly allowed the retention of vehicles gifted to them by different foreign states and dignitaries by relaxing procedures related to the submission of gifts in the Toshakhana — a government department that stores gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and officials by heads of other governments, states, and foreign dignitaries.

The accused, “through dishonest and illegal means for their personal benefit and interest”, retained the vehicles in question “against a nominal payment of 15 per cent of the total value”, the reference stated.

In June 2020, an accountability court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the PML-N supremo, who had skipped hearings because he had begun his self-imposed exile in London. Months later, Nawaz had challenged the warrants in the Islamabad High Court but withdrew the petition days later.

On Sept 10, 2020, he was declared a proclaimed offender in the case, with an accountability court initiating the process to confiscate his properties and directing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to make his arrest through Interpol.

Ahead of his return to Pakistan in October, an accountability court had suspended the perpetual arrest warrants issued in 2020 for the ex-premier in the case. He was granted bail days later.

Today, Nawaz’s counsel Qazi Misbah appeared before accountability judge Mohammad Bashir along with the PML-N supremo’s pleader Rana Irfan. NAB prosecutors Irfan Bhola and Sohail Arif were also present during the hearing.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing, Misbah informed the court that his client had joined the investigation and was provided with a questionnaire.

He recalled that the questionnaire for the reference was drafted in 2019, when Nawaz was “extremely ill”. The defence counsel further argued that his client had “made no demand” for a car and that the same was present on record as well.

The lawyer stated that Nawaz had provided his answers to the questionnaire. The NAB prosecutors also confirmed the same before the court.

“There will be further proceedings, for which some time will be required,” he informed the judge.

Here, Misbah argued that the reference filed “mentioned Nawaz’s car, which has no record of its return”. He reiterated that there were “no documents present that stated that Nawaz had asked for any car”.

Judge Bashir then asked the NAB prosecutors about their request before the court, to which one of them replied: “We will review Nawaz Sharif’s statement for now and then there will be further action on this.”

Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing till Dec 20.

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