Nawaz given time till Nov 3 to appear before the court which had earlier indicted him in the Avenfield properties graft case linked with the Panama Papers leak
In yet another setback to ousted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been indicted in graft cases linked with the Panama Papers leak, an accountability court in Islamabad, on Thursday, issued bailable warrants against him in connection with two corruption references.
Sharif has been granted time till November 3 to present himself before the court. If the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief fails to appear before the accountability court on the said date, non-bailable warrants may be issued against him. On earlier hearings in the case, Sharif’s legal team had claimed that he was in London to attend to his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer. However, the former Premier and his wife are currently in Saudi Arabia, where they had arrived earlier this week and were reportedly en route to Pakistan.
As the hearing into the three corruption references against Nawaz and his family members began in the accountability court on Thursday, the former prime minister’s lead counsel Khawaja Haris pleaded before Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir that his client should be exempted from appearing in court owing to his wife’s illness and ongoing treatment.
However, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor argued that Nawaz had been granted time to appear in the court on Thursday as his earlier exemption period of 15 days was now over. The NAB then pressed for warrants to be issued to Nawaz to secure his production in the court on the next date of hearing (November 3).
The warrants have been issued to Nawaz for his alleged role in the Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment Limited references – both cases that were slapped against the former Prime Minister following an expose in the famous Panama Papers leak case.
Nawaz has not submitted surety bonds in the Azizia and Flagship references whereas he has submitted in the court a Rs5 million surety bond in the third reference made against him for his alleged role in the London-based Avenfield properties case, in which he was recently indicted along with his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt Muhammad Safdar and is awaiting trial.
Haris informed the accountability court that the former Prime Minister’s legal team has challenged Nawaz’s indictment in the references in the Islamabad High Court which is scheduled to hear the case on November 2.
Earlier, as the hearing began, Maryam Nawaz, the former Premier’s daughter who is accused in the Avenfield reference, reached the court after landing at Islamabad airport in a special plane from Lahore while her husband, Capt (retd) Safdar, arrived at the Federal Judicial Complex before her.
The references against Nawaz and his family:
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and one against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.
The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court’s order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.
The references against Sharif and his family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties and over a dozen offshore companies owned by the family.
Court approves Maryam, Safdar’s bail
According to a report by Pakistan’s Geo News, Maryam and Safdar – who are indicted only in the London Avenfield properties reference – have been granted bail by the accountability court on the condition of them submitting surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.
Safdar was also directed to take the court’s permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and her husband.
NAB’s Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.
Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family’s Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.