Panamagate case: NAB submits record of Hudabiya mills case

Accountability watchdog’s chief to appear before SC’s larger bench today

Hasnaat Malik February 21, 2017
NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry speaks to officials. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: Seventeen years ago, the National Accountability Bureau had claimed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family received over Rs1 billion ‘through illegal and fraudulent means’ and that they were liable to be tried under anti-corruption laws, reveal documents submitted by the accountability watchdog before the Supreme Court on Monday.

The 2000 NAB proceedings came to the fore when the bureau’s prosecutor general, Waqas Qadeer Dar, submitted two references — respectively related to the Hudabiya Paper Mills (HPM) scam and ‘illegal’ construction of the Sharif family’s Raiwind estate — before the apex court. The NAB chairman will also appear in person before the larger bench hearing the Panamagate case today [Tuesday].

Judges’ report: LHC told Sharifs’ mills not violating top court order

In 2014, the Lahore High Court had quashed the Hudabiya Paper Mills reference against the Sharif family. NAB had not challenged the LHC decision in the Supreme Court.

Highlighting apparent lacunae in the acquittal by the Sharifs by the LHC, the Supreme Court has already expressed wonder as to how a whopping sum of Rs1.2 billion was still ‘unaccounted for’ and why NAB has not filed an appeal against the LHC verdict.

According to the NAB documents – a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune – Premier Sharif, his daughter Maryam, father Mian Muhammad Sharif, brothers – Shehbaz Sharif and Abbas Sharif, Abbas’s wife Sabiha, Nawaz’s son Hussain and Shahbaz’s son Hamza, had been accused of receiving ‘ill-gotten money’ in the case.

“All the accused persons in collusion and in connivance with each other appear to have committed acts of corruption and corrupt practices as defined under Section 9 read with Section 10 of the NAB Ordinance,” NAB’s former chairman Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool had told an accountability court.

It is interesting to note that NAB had filed two references in the Hudabiya case.

Incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was nominated as accused in the initial reference. But NAB in its final reference excluded his name after he recorded a confession statement.

“There was an unexplained investment of Rs642.743m appearing in books of the HPM as share deposit money. The same belonged to the directors/shareholders and beneficial owners of the company, which they had fraudulently amassed under the garb of foreign equity investment,” said the final reference.

It said the company in 1999 settled its loan with London-based Al-Towfeek Company for Investment Funds by making a payment of $8.7 million and the source of this payment also appeared to be doubtful.

“It appears from the evidence that in order to launder and conceal their ill-gotten wealth, both Sharif brothers appeared to have fraudulently opened fictitious foreign currency accounts in the names of various individuals with active connivance of some of their close associates and employees.

Panamagate case: PM asks SC to adopt ‘fair procedure’

“The amounts that have been deposited in the said accounts stand unexplained and appear to be beyond the known source of income of the accused individuals,” it said.

NAB in its final reference submitted that fraudulent accounts and deposits were used by the accused persons as collateral to obtain loans from various financial institutions. Same deposits were released, encashed and proceeds were used to adjust the financial facilities availed by various companies owned by the accused persons.

NAB has also submitted documents of another reference about allegedly illegal construction of Raiwind estate, wherein PM and his parents had been nominated as accused.

The reference stated that the Federal Investigation Agency had probed the illegal construction of houses at Raiwind and it was found that an area measuring 401 kanals was illegally acquired by the PM and his mother. This land had been used for the construction of palatial mansions and other ancillary buildings

The total income of the accused persons (Sharif family) during the year 1992-2000 if added appeared to be Rs41.190 million but the total investment made by the accused persons for the construction of the buildings amounted to an estimated Rs247.357million.

The ruling Sharif family, which is already facing a hard time in satisfying the top court regarding the money trail for the purchase of various London properties, is likely to face a tougher time today (Tuesday) in these alleged money laundering cases.

The scam came to the limelight last month when the bench – headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa – took up the PTI’s plea seeking disqualification of Finance Minister Dar on charges of allegedly facilitating the Sharif family in laundering Rs1.2 billion.

Legal experts believe that the court may ask NAB to reinvestigate the case, in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was nominated as an accused. The bench may ask NAB to file appeal against the LHC order against the reinvestigation of scam against the ruling family.

Sharif family on Monday suffered another setback as a three-judge bench dismissed their review petition on an earlier order of the Supreme Court to stop crushing at their sugar mills for seven days.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2017.