NAB didn’t find proof against Nawaz on its own, SC told

ISLAMABAD: The counsel for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) never conducted any investigation into the establishment of Al-Azizia and HME Steel Mills and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) did not ask his client any question about the HME when he appeared before it.

While making final arguments before the Supreme Court, lead defence counsel in Al-Azizia reference Khawaja Haris Ahmed said the documents on the basis of which NAB implicated the former premier in the reference were the ones produced by no one else but his own son Hussain Nawaz before the court.

“They [NAB] never brought anything on the court’s record except the documents produced by Hussain Nawaz before the Supreme Court during the hearing of the Panama Papers case,” he said.

Advocate Haris argued whether it was appropriate to implicate someone in a reference on the basis of documents submitted by a co-accused before the court. What the investigation officer brought [on record] had already been examined by the court, he said, adding that the investigators got all the information included in the reference against Mr Nawaz from the same documents and failed to trace any incriminating material against him during the investigation.

Some other information incorporated in the reference was the details of accounts which his clients had himself shared with the Federal Board of Revenue and the Supreme Court, the counsel argued.

About the money remitted to his client’s accounts as mentioned in the Aldar audit report, which also was presented by Mr Hussain before the SC, Advocate Haris termed it an incomplete and insufficient piece of evidence, arguing that the prosecution never tried to verify the audit report or its contents through independent. The scribes of this report never testified before any competent forum, therefore, it could not be used against his client as admissible evidence, he added.

Citing the testimony of JIT head Wajid Zia that the request sent to Saudi Arabia for mutual legal assistance regarding HME did not mention full name of the HME, the company owned by Hussain Nawaz, the defence counsel said the JIT did not know the company’s complete title when it sent the request. The JIT learnt the actual title, which was “Hill Modern Industry for Metal Establishment”, through the documents Mr Hussain produced during his appearance before the JIT on June 3, 2017.

On the basis of incorrect and incomplete information, the JIT expected to collect factual information from the Saudi authorities, Mr Haris said, observing that this was an example of JIT’s so-called ‘efficiency’ and ‘competence’.

About Al-Azizia Steel Mills, the defence counsel said Mr Nawaz had never claimed to be its owner. He said Mr Hussain was not a dependent of his father as his grandfather Mian Mohammad Sharif was looking after the entire family. He said the story about money trail of Al-Azizia/HME was no different, as Mian Sharif had invested with the Qatari royal family.

Advocate Haris argued that Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani had confirmed to the Supreme Court about the investment of 12 million dirhams of the Sharif family. However, he said, “the JIT never made any serious effort to record statement of Sheikh Hamad despite the fact that he was ready to share every possible detail with the investigators.”

The defence will continue final arguments on Wednesday as the court adjourned further proceeding.