–Adjourns hearing till Dec 4 after NAB’s special prosecutor seeks more time to prepare for the case
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought complete record of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference and adjourned the proceedings till Dec 11 after National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Special Prosecutor Imranul Haq asked for more time to prepare for the case.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam conducted the hearing. The proceedings were witnessed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Fawad Chaudhry and Naeemul Haq, apart from the NAB prosecutor.
The judges questioned the NAB lawyer over why the Hudaibiya reference had earlier been disposed of, and why it had taken such a long time to begin proceedings against the Sharif family in the case. The NAB prosecutor said that the high court had earlier closed the reference citing technicalities. When the court asked where the original reference was, the NAB lawyer said he did not have it. To this, Justice Alam said it was necessary for the court to have the original reference for the case to proceed.
The bench summoned Volume 8 after Haq informed that the Hudaibiya case was mentioned in the said volume.
The NAB lawyer also argued that he did not believe the high court had disposed of the reference on the basis of merit, to which Justice Qazi Faez Isa said the court would assess the merit of the case.
The NAB lawyer told the court that the Economic Reforms Act had been used by the accused to provide cover for money laundering.
“The Sharif family had a large quantity of unlawful income, which they laundered and sent abroad. All the money was turned white and deposited into the Hudaibiya accounts,” he alleged. “Fake bank accounts were opened through Ishaq Dar [to facilitate the transactions],” the prosecutor added, adding that the Sharif family’s income was less than their assets.
The case was restarted in an accountability court after Nawaz’s return, the prosecutor said, adding that when Nawaz returned to the country by means of the National Reconciliation Ordinance near election time in 2008, a court had ordered the reference to be filed again.
Justice Isa then asked when Nawaz was exiled.
“When the reference was restarted, why was no proof presented in court if the suspect was in the country for nine months?” Justice Isa asked, observing that there could be trouble regarding the delay in pursuance of the case. From March 27, 2000, to Dec 10, 2000, nothing happened, he pointed out.
On Nov 27, 2007, when Nawaz returned to Pakistan again, NAB remained quiet for another nine months, Justice Isa added, noting that NAB had requested the restoration of the reference nine months later.
“The case would be very different if the suspect were absconding,” he said, adding that the court would have to review the legal standards employed in pursuing the case.
The NAB prosecutor said that the Sharif family became influential in 2014. “In 2014, the [referee judge of the] high court dismissed the reference and stopped NAB from restarting it,” he alleged. To this, Justice Mushir observed that the referee judge had to side with one of the judges’ decisions in the case, to which the NAB lawyer responded that the referee judge had declared the decision of one of the judges as null and void.
When Justice Mushir objected to the length of time the reference was kept pending, the NAB lawyer argued that the Hudaibiya case is related to the Panama Papers case, and that an appeal had been filed after the Supreme Court passed its judgement in the Panamagate case.
“We are not hearing the Panama case, we are hearing the Hudaibiya reference,” Justice Mushir retorted, after which the NAB lawyer admitted he was not completely prepared for the court’s proceedings in the reference.
The apex court subsequently adjourned the case until Dec 11.
On November 13, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had excused himself from the three-member bench that was formed to hear the petition filed by NAB against the Lahore High Court’s decision to quash the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharif family.
Justice Khosa had observed that he had already been part of the bench who had delivered the verdict in the Panama Papers case and it would thus be inappropriate for him to take up this case.
The court had then referred the case back to the CJP to form a new bench to continue with the hearing of the appeal.
Subsequently, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Saqib Nisar on November 25 had formed a new three-member bench to hear National Accountability Bureau (NAB) appeal to reopen Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against deposed prime minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif and his family members.
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.
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.
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. 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.
[…] Source: Google News […]
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