Verdict in references against Sharif on 24th

Published: December 19, 2018
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NAB could not present any evidence, proving that he had established Al-Azizia or the Hill Metal, Nawaz maintains. PHOTO: FILE

NAB could not present any evidence, proving that he had established Al-Azizia or the Hill Metal, Nawaz maintains. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD                      : The accountability court on Wednesday reserved its verdict in the Al Azizia and Flagship references filed against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif in September 2017.

The judgement will be announced on December 24.

During the hearing, defence counsel Khawaja Haris presented a rebuttal to statements made by the prosecution. Sharif’s counsel also petitioned the court for additional time to submit some more documents; however, the court rejected the request.

In the Al Azizia reference, 22 witnesses recorded their statements, while in the Flagship reference, 16 witnesses recorded their testimonies.

Former premier Sharif decided not to offer any defence in both cases.

Proceedings in the remaining references continued after Sharif and daughter Maryam were released from prison earlier in September.

Sharif distances himself from Al-Azizia Mills

The Supreme Court (SC) extended the deadline for the eighth time earlier this month, instructing the lower court to wrap up proceedings and announce the verdict by December 24.

Throughout the course of the trial, the former premier defended the accusation of being the real owner and beneficiary of offshore companies, which he claims belong to his sons Hasan and Hussain Nawaz.

Sharif maintained that the case against him was initiated on the basis of allegations levelled by his political rivals and the report of a joint investigation team (JIT) in the Panama Papers case was biased.

Sharif further said the report had declared him as the “real owner” of Al Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, but he was not the owner nor was he a “benamidaar” of both the businesses, adding that NAB could not present any evidence, proving that he had established Al-Azizia or Hill Metal.

Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar were released from jail earlier after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended their prison sentences.

The Sharifs had challenged the convictions through appeals and sentences through petitions.

“The instant writ petition is allowed and sentence awarded to the petitioners by the accountability court shall remain suspended till the final adjudication of the appeal filed by the petitioner,” read the judgment. “The petitioner shall be released on bail subject to furnishing bail bonds in the sum of Rs500,000 with one surety in the amount to the satisfaction of deputy registrar of the high court.”

Earlier in July, after almost 10 months of continuous proceedings, an accountability court found Sharif and two of his family members guilty in one of the four corruption references filed against them in line with the apex court’s July 28, 2017 order and awarded them “rigorous imprisonment” and heavy financial penalties.

In the verdict on Avenfield Apartments reference announced by Judge Muhammad Bashir, the court sentenced Sharif to 10 years rigorous imprisonment, his daughter Maryam to seven years rigorous imprisonment and son-in-law, Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, to one-year rigorous imprisonment.

The then-first family was named in the Panama papers, one of the biggest leaks in history, for ownership of offshore companies.

The leak, comprising 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, showed how some of the world’s most powerful people have secreted away their money in offshore jurisdictions.

Addressing the media outside the accountability court, Sharif reiterated that his conscience was clear as he was not “involved in any corruption”.

Court reserves ruling over final arguments in Al-Azizia reference

“According to the records of the registrar office, I was presented before the court 78 times,” said Sharif, adding that earlier in the accountability court No 1, I was present 87 times, hence, have attended 165 hearings,” the PML-N supremo stated. “There are no accusations against me for receiving kickbacks or misusing authority. I fail to understand why such treatment is being meted out. I have served the masses for 35 years, twice as a chief minister and thrice as the prime minister.”

Referring to the ongoing corruption trial against members of the Sharif family, he said the ongoing legal proceedings “are based on assumptions, speculations and ideas”.

Sharif; however, stated that he firmly believed that the court would hand out a fair judgement.

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