SC to hear NAB’s appeal in Hudaibiya case on Monday

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  • Three-judge bench to be headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and will also include Justice Dost Muhammad, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel

  • The money laundering reference was initiated on basis of confessional statement of Ishaq Dar on April 25, 2000

ISLAMABAD: A three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) will hear the appeal filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the Lahore High Court’s decision to quash the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharif family.

The bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel will take up the case on Nov 13 (Monday).

The NAB prosecutor general has dispatched notices to the parties concerned in this regard.

The anti-graft institution had on Sept 20 filed an appeal in the SC against the decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) quashing the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharif family.

The petition had named ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Shehbaz’s son and MNA Hamza Shehbaz, among other family members, as respondents.

The NAB had pleaded the SC to dismiss the LHC’s decision to quash the case and order a reinvestigation into the scam as per the new evidence which surfaced in the Panama Papers case Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report.

NAB had assured the apex court that it would be filing the appeal in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case during the hearing of Awami Muslim League (AML) leader Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed’s petition in the court seeking re-opening of the case.

Earlier, Rasheed—one of three petitioners in the Panama Papers case—had moved the SC against NAB, accusing the anti-graft watchdog of failing to file an appeal in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case in accordance with the SC’s Panama Papers verdict.

The JIT formed to probe allegations against the Sharif family in the Panama Papers case had recommended the reopening of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference.

In its July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case, the SC asked NAB to reopen the case as it filed other corruption references against the Sharif family and Ishaq Dar. The apex court had also criticised NAB for not challenging LHC’s decision to quash the case.

It is pertinent to mention here that Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who disqualified Nawaz Sharif for not being honest to the nation, had commenced his dissenting judgement by quoting from Mario Puzo’s popular 1969 novel The Godfather recounting the violent tale of a mafia family.

“Behind every great fortune there is a crime,” the judgement cited, saying the novel was a popular sensation which was made into an acclaimed film.

HUDAIBIYA PAPER MILLS CASE:

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering reference was initiated on the basis of a confessional statement of Ishaq Dar on April 25, 2000, in which he had admitted to his role in laundering money to the tune of $14.86 million on behalf of the Sharifs through fictitious accounts.

Dar’s handwritten statement—given before a magistrate back on April 25, 2000—had alleged that Sharif brothers used the Hudaibya Paper Mills as cover for money laundering during the late 1990s.

The reference was prepared on the orders of Pervez Musharraf; however, it was shelved after the Sharif brothers went into exile in December of the same year.

The Musharraf government tried to reopen the reference in 2007 after Nawaz Sharif announced his return to the country.

Dar’s confessional statement was recorded before a district magistrate in Lahore. He was brought to the court from a jail by Basharat Shahzad—who was then serving as assistant director in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Various legal experts said the senator’s deposition was an ‘irrevocable statement’ as had been recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Even though Dar has always been regarded as one of the closest aides of the Sharif family, and is now also a relative as his son is married to Nawaz Sharif’s younger daughter; however, the NAB record clearly shows that back in 2000 he had agreed to give a written statement against the Sharifs about their alleged involvement in money laundering.

At one point in the 43-page statement, Dar said that on the instructions of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif, “I opened two foreign currency accounts in the name of Sikandara Masood Qazi and Talat Masood Qazi with the foreign currency funds provided by the Sharif family in the Bank of America by signing as Sikandara Masood Qazi and Talat Masood Qazi.”

He said that all instructions to the bank in the name of these two persons were signed by him under the orders of “original depositors”, namely Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif.

“The foreign currency accounts of Nuzhat Gohar and Kashif Masood Qazi were opened in Bank of America by Naeem Mehmood under my instructions (based on instructions of Sharifs) by signing the same as Nuzhat Gohar and Kashif Masood Qazi,” he said.

The document shows Dar stated that besides these foreign currency accounts, a previously opened foreign currency account of Saeed Ahmed, a former director of First Hajvari Modaraba Co and close friend of Dar, and of Mussa Ghani, the nephew of Dar’s wife, were also used to deposit huge foreign currency funds provided by “the Sharif family” to offer them as collateral to obtain different direct and indirect credit lines.

Dar had disclosed that the Bank of America, Citibank, Atlas Investment Bank, Al Barka Bank and Al Towfeeq Investment Bank were used under the instructions of the Sharif family.

It is interesting to note, however, that Dar also implicated himself by confessing in court that he—along with his friends Kamal Qureshi and Naeem Mehmood—had opened fake foreign currency accounts in different international banks.

He said an amount of $3.725 million in Emirates Bank, $ 8.539 million in Al Faysal Bank and $2.622 million were later transferred in the accounts of the accounts Hudaibya Paper Mills.

He said that the entire amount in these banks finally landed in the accounts of the paper mills.

The witness was, however, pardoned by the then NAB chairman.

While Nawaz Sharif was not named in the interim reference filed in March 2000, in the final reference against the Hudaibya Paper Mills—approved by then NAB chairman Khalid Maqbool—the bureau had accused Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Nawaz.

The LHC had quashed the case in 2014 as the PML-N continued to claim that Dar’s statement was taken under duress.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said the confessional statement of Ishaq Dar was obtained under duress and that he himself was a witness of the torture faced by Dar.

“Being a political worker I don’t think that it would be decent for me to describe my ordeal and what I faced when I was imprisoned, particularly after Musharraf’s coup in October, 1999. But I want to mention that Dar was held at his house till Feb, 2000, and subjected to interrogation multiple times during this period,” Asif said while talking to a news channel.

Asif recalled, “On the morning of February 8 or 9, 2000, I met him [Dar], he had lost more than 30 pounds of weight.”

The defence minister is of the view that Dar is a professional, not a political worker, “so forcing him into issuing a statement was not a big deal”.