–Former PM asks NAB court not to use his speech made in NA in May 2016 as evidence against him
–Says he never admitted to owning Gulf, Al-Azizia and Dubai factories, claims he was not involved in family’s businesses when in office
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday refused to answer the court’s queries concerning the tax returns and wealth statements of his sons, Hasan and Hussain, saying the matter didn’t come within his purview.
The thrice premier appeared before Accountability Judge Arshad Malik to record his statement in Al-Azizia reference filed against him on the orders of Supreme Court (SC).
When Nawaz approached the rostrum to verbally record his testimony, the judge asked him to return to his seat, and told him that he himself would read the statement out in court for it to be recorded.
At the outset, the PML-N supreme leader said that he would need time to consult his lawyer Khawaja Haris before he could provide responses to the five unanswered questions posed by the court. “Some questions are complicated and records will need to be checked [before they can be answered],” Nawaz told the court.
“I will ask you [further] questions regarding the replies which are not satisfactory,” Judge Malik said, asking Nawaz if he had examined all the evidence presented by the prosecution, to which the latter responded in the affirmative.
Justice Malik then summoned Nawaz on the rostrum where he asked if it was correct that he had held public offices. To this, Nawaz affirmed that it was indeed correct; he had served as prime minister three times, chief minister, finance minister and opposition leader. However, I did not hold any public office from 1999 to 2013, and was in exile from 2000 to 2007, the deposed PM said.
Replying to the court questionnaire, the former PM apprised the court that he never admitted to owning Gulf, Al-Azizia and Dubai factories during a corruption hearing against him. He also said that the Al-Azizia Steel Mills were constructed by his father and that he was not involved in any way with the family’s business affairs.
He reiterated that he has nothing to do with any agreements done by Gulf Steel Mills and maintained that his National Assembly speech, made in May 2016, be exempted under Article 66 of the Constitution from being used in court as evidence. “I made the speech on the basis of some documents,” he said.
Responding to a question regarding his family’s wealth returns, he said, “I cannot answer questions regarding the income tax returns and wealth statements of Hassan and Hussain Nawaz. It is not within my purview,” he added.
“I have shown all my income tax returns, my assets and my sources of income. It is true that the financial documents, including tax records, wealth statements and wealth tax returns, are all my own,” he added.
The court observed that since Nawaz held public office, he was “the most influential person in the Sharif family”, to which the ousted PM replied that this was an opinion formed by the investigation officer.
“My father Mian Muhammad Sharif was the most influential person in the family until his last breath,” he claimed.
Nawaz’s legal team objected to some questions listed on the questionnaire, as the former prime minister pointed out that some of the questions were based on rumours while a few others were ambiguous in nature.
Nawaz left the court while his statement was being read out in court. Once the reading of his statement concluded, he returned to the court and signed his testimony.
It is worth mentioning here that the cases against the Sharif family stemmed from the Panama Papers leak that disclosed expensive and undeclared property allegedly owned by them in London.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain Safdar were convicted and sentenced to prison for ten years, seven years and one year respectively in the Avenfield verdict.
However, the convictions were suspended by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and they were released from Adiala Jail till final decision.
During a previous hearing of the reference on October 30, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Wasiq Malik had informed Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik that the watchdog had completed presenting its evidence against the accused in the reference. A total of 22 witnesses were produced before the accountability court since October last year, following Nawaz’s indictment in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference, he had told the court.
The accountability court has until November 17 to wrap up the remaining two corruption references – Al-Azizia and Flagship Investments – against the Sharif family. However, the court on Tuesday decided to seek another extension to conclude the trial.
Initially, the top court had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court to conclude the corruption trial by Oct 7, however, the deadline approached and court proceedings in both references had not reached a conclusive position.