An accountability court on Monday handed ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference and ordered that his properties be seized.
The court also fined Nawaz $25 million and 1.5m pounds, according to initial reports.
The former premier, however, was acquitted in the Flagship Investments reference. Accountability Judge Arshad Malik while reading out the short order said there was no case against Nawaz in the Flagship reference.
Nawaz has been taken into custody and will be transported to jail shortly. Armoured vehicles are standing by outside the premises to transport the former prime minister to prison. Following the conviction, his lawyer Khawaja Haris requested the judge that the PML-N quaid be shifted to Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail instead of Adiala Jail. The court, after reserving its verdict on the request, accepted Nawaz’s request.
- Nawaz handed 7 years in jail in Al-Azizia reference
- Fined $2.5m, 1.5m pounds
- Properties to be seized
- No case against Nawaz in Flagship reference
The verdict ─ initially expected between 9am to 10am ─ was announced almost immediately after Nawaz arrived in the courtroom close to 2:45pm.
Accountability Judge Arshad Malik, while reading out the short order, said that Nawaz was indicted in the Al-Azizia reference under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
Section 9(a)(v) says: “A holder of a public office, or any other person, is said to commit or to have committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practices if he or any of his dependents or benamidar owns, possesses, or has acquired right or title in any assets or holds irrevocable power of attorney in respect of any assets or pecuniary resources disproportionate to his known sources of income, which he cannot reasonably account for, or maintains a standard of living beyond that which is commensurate with his sources of income.”
The short order said that the burden of proof lies on Nawaz in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case.
Lead-up to verdict
PML-N workers started gathering outside the court to show their support for the party’s supreme leader as early as 7:30am.
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb and veteran politician Javed Hashmi arrived at court and were permitted to enter the premises. Other leaders, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, were not allowed to enter.
Nawaz, who arrived in Islamabadfrom Lahore on Sunday, visited a farmhouse this morning where he offered sadqa and held a meeting with senior party leaders, DawnNewsTV reported, citing sources.
He reached the Federal Judicial Complex a little after 2:15pm, after which PML-N supporters gathered outside the premises began pelting stones and tried to force their way into the court complex, DawnNewsTV reported. Police retaliated with tear gas shelling and baton-charging the supporters.
Security was beefed up around the judicial complex, with heavy contingents of police and Rangers deployed around the building and along roads leading to the court.
Although Section 144 has been imposed in the capital, the Islamabad and Rawalpindi administrations decided that there would be no blockade at the entry points of the capital, and security officials would only ensure strict checking.
Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments
Accountability Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik on Dec 19 had reserved judgement in both the references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the former premier.
The two references concern the setting up of the Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment in Saudi Arabia, and Flagship Investment in the United Kingdom. The accountability court charged Nawaz in both references under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
According to NAB’s special prosecutor, the case against the Sharifs revolved around finding out how the family’s companies were established and through which resources.
According to a plea by the Sharif family in court, the late Mian Mohammad Sharif, [Nawaz Sharif’s father] established Gulf Steel Mills (GSM) in the UAE in 1974.
Seventy-five per cent shares of GSM were sold to Abdullah Kayed Ahli and the entity was re-named Ahli Steel Mills (ASM) in 1978 and the remaining 25pc shares were further sold to the ASM in 1980. This yielded an amount of AED 12 million which was invested with the Qatari royal family.
While the Sharifs were in exile, the late Mian Sharif had provided AED 5.4m for Hussain Nawaz and AED 4.2m for Hasan Nawaz to establish Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment in Saudi Arabia, and Flagship Investment and 16 other companies in the UK.
According to the prosecution, the Sharif family failed to justify the source of the funds provided to set up the firms, making this a case of owning assets beyond means.
The Sharif family took the stance that it was out of the AED 12m that the late Mian Sharif invested with the Qatari royal family. Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, however, did not appear before the joint investigation team (JIT) to verify the details, said the prosecution.
During the final arguments, the defence attorney maintained that the JIT made no serious effort to record the prince’s testimony, since this would have benefited the defence’s case.
Another ‘guilty’ verdict for Nawaz
On July 28, 2017, the SC 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 Sept 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 premier himself.