News Analysis |
An accountability court has reserved its verdict in the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Flagship Investment and Al-Azizia references against the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The verdict will be announced on 24th December (Monday), a revised date given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to the accountability court to wrap up the references against Mr. Sharif.
On Wednesday, Mr. Sharif’s legal counsel requested the court to grant them more time so that they may submit some documents related to Hassan and Hussain Nawaz’s, Nawaz’s sons, business. The request for a full week’s time was, however, turned down by the judge, who told Haris that he could submit the documents in court latest by Monday.
Khawaja Haris, legal counsel for Sharifs, while presenting his final argument today, told the judge that “Nawaz Sharif has never admitted that he received a salary from Capital FZE”, adding that his client’s position in the said company was “honorary”. The counsel also claimed that Sharif had obtained employment in Capital FZE for visa purposes only.
The request for a full week’s time was, however, turned down by the judge, who told Haris that he could submit the documents in court latest by Monday.
Moreover, prior to Nawaz’s counsel, the NAB prosecutor informed the court that Mr. Sharif had been receiving AED10, 000 from Capital FZE between 2006 and 2013. He said the Sharif family was given the first opportunity in the Supreme Court to explain holding of their property. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the SC in the Panama Papers case was the second forum where they could justify their assets whereas another chance was given to them by the investigation officer when he summoned them before the filing of the application.
The family could not justify their assets despite being given multiple opportunities, he added. The prosecutor said the Sharif family took a plea before the apex court that while they were in exile, Mian Mohammad Sharif, the ousted-PM’s father who passed away in 2004, managed AED5.4 million for Hussain Nawaz and AED 4.2 million for Hassan Nawaz so that they could establish their businesses in the UK and Saudi Arabia. Sharif family had said money was taken out of the AED 12 million that Late Mian Sharif had invested with Qatari Royal family.
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The prosecutor said, however, Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani never appeared before the JIT to verify the details. Sharif’s advocate Haris explained that Mian Sharif had established Gulf steel Mills in UAE in 1974; its shares were sold by 1980 and the amount of AED 12 million gained out of selling shares was invested with Qatari family.
The prosecutor countered the explanation saying those were private transactions according to Sharif family itself, as the amount was never transferred through official channels; the reason JIT did not believe in Sharif family’s explanations. He further argued that Sharifs had to justify the investment of AED 5.4 million by Mr. Hussain in Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment and AED4.2 million by Mr. Hassan in flagship Investment and other companies but family failed to explain the investment.
The JIT constituted by the SC in the Panama Papers case was the second forum where they could justify their assets whereas another chance.
The prosecutor claimed that Mr. Sharif was the real owner of the companies established by his sons who were just benamidar. To that, Khawaja Haris did not have any defense and sought time to rebut the prosecutor’s argument.
It is also important to mention that the SC disqualified Mr. Sharif in Panama Paper’s judgment since he was unable to satisfy the court over his assets beyond known sources. Mr. Sharif filed a review petition against the decision but the petition was dismissed by the court. In the same judgment, the most senior judge of the apex court, Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa has observed that Mr. Sharif is not an honest and truthful person and therefore not eligible to hold any public office.
The trial against Mr. Sharif and his Family:
According to details, the trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017. On July 6, after four extensions in the original six-month deadline to conclude all three cases, the accountability court announced its verdict in the Avenfield reference. Nawaz, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar were sentenced to 11 years, eight years and one year, respectively, in prison. Mr. Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, are accused in all three references whereas Maryam and Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only. The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.
Decision against Nawaz
Legal experts believe that Mr. Sharif remained unable to present a sufficient amount of evidence to back his claims of innocence. For example, the ousted Prime Minister remained unable to deny that he received money from the Capital FZE between 2006 and 2013. Defence counsel couldn’t justify Sharif sons’ investments either. The case before the court is not legally complex since Nawaz and his legal counsel are still trying to bring some documents in order to make their point.
Mr. Saad Rasool, a prominent lawyer, believes that the case is clear and does not involve any legal complexity and it is expected that the court will give a clear judgment on the matter. After the hearing, while talking to media, Nawaz Sharif claimed that he had appeared before court for 78 times and not a penny corruption was proven against him.
But Mr. Sharif should have known that even after appearing for 78 times before the court, his defence counsel could not justify the investments made by Sharif family; it was failure at his part, since as per NAB rules, it is the ‘accused’ that has to prove himself innocent and not the prosecution who has to bring in evidence. Now all eyes are on the accountability court which will announce its verdict on 24th December.