IHC admits Nawaz’s plea against Al-Azizia conviction

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–IHC CJ-led bench to hear former premier’s plea against accountability court’s Al-Azizia verdict on Monday

–Plea also seeks bail for convicted former prime minister until review petition decided upon

–Court to hear NAB’s plea seeking enhancement of Nawaz’s sentence, challenging Flagship reference verdict as well

 

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has fixed January 7 as the date to hear former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s plea for the suspension of his sentence in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference case filed against him by the National Accountancy Bureau (NAB).

Nawaz was convicted by the accountability court in the Al-Azizia reference and awarded seven years imprisonment besides a fine of Rs1.5 billion on December 25. He was acquitted in the Flagship reference case due to lack of evidence.

The registrar office of the IHC had earlier rejected the former premier’s plea against the accountability court verdict twice.

According to the details garnered Saturday, a two-member division bench, comprising IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamir Farooq, will now hear Nawaz’s plea on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Nawaz’s counsel Munawar Iqbal Duggal had submitted his plea against the sentence for the third time after removing the registrar’s objections. In the plea, IHC has been requested to grant bail to Nawaz until a decision on the appeal against the verdict is decided.

Nawaz had earlier filed a plea in the IHC against his sentence on January 1. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo had requested the court to suspend the sentence and release him on bail. However, the IHC registrar had stated that the petition was incomplete and returned it.

On January 3, Nawaz had filed another plea but the IHC registrar returned it once again after citing reservations.

It may be noted that the IHC on Friday also admitted for hearing NAB’s appeals wherein the bureau challenged the accountability court verdicts in both the reference cases against members of the Sharif family.

In its appeal against the Al-Azizia verdict, the anti-graft body seeks an increase in Nawaz Sharif’s imprisonment sentence. It also challenges Nawaz’s acquittal in the Flagship reference.

AL-AZIZIA REFERENCE:

Hussain Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister’s elder son, claims that he received a sum of $5.4 million from his grandfather to establish the steel conglomerate in Saudi Arabia. The payment was made by a Qatari royal on the request of the elder Sharif. Thereafter, scrap machinery was transported from their Ahli Steel Mills in Dubai to Jeddah to establish Al-Azizia in 2001.

The JIT constituted to investigate the graft allegations insisted that the real owner of the mills was Nawaz Sharif, and it was being operated by his son on his behalf. Hussain was 29-years-old at the time. The JIT also held that Nawaz Sharif received 97 per cent profit as ‘gifts’ from Hill Metals Establishment, another company established by Hussain Nawaz Sharif in 2005, in Saudi Arabia.

Of the amount, Nawaz Sharif transferred 77 percent to his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif. (Maryam is not accused in this reference). Here as well, the NAB claims that since Sharif received a large profit from Hussain’s companies, he is the real owner and not his son. However, during the proceedings the NAB could not substantiate its claim through documentary evidences and instead placed the burden of proof on the accused.

On July 28, 2017, the Supreme Court verdict had, besides disqualifying then prime minister Nawaz from his position, also directed the accountability authority to file three references – regarding the family’s Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia, and Flagship Investment – before the accountability court.

In September 2017, NAB filed three references against members of the Sharif family.

On July 6 this year, Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir handed down convictions to Nawaz, Maryam, and son-in-law Capt Mohammad Safdar (retd) in the Avenfield Properties reference and jailed them for 10 years, seven years and one year respectively.

But on September 19, the Islamabad High Court granted all three bail after suspending their sentences. NAB’s appeal against the suspension of the sentence remains pending before the SC.

Since September 2017, Nawaz has appeared before the accountability courts some 165 times, according to the former premier himself.