ISLAMABAD: The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) found no transactions linking the Sharif family with Al-Azizia Steel or Hill Metal Establishment, an accountability court hearing three references against the Sharif family’s businesses was told.
During cross-examination, Sidra Mansoor, joint registrar at the SECP’s Company Registration Office in Lahore confirmed that while Hussain Nawaz was a shareholder in Mehran Ramzan Textile Mills Limited, the company had no connection or transactions with either of the two companies under investigation.
The accountability court recorded the statements of four prosecution witnesses in connection with three separate references – Flagship Investments, Al-Azizia and Avenfield Properties.
Both Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam witnessed proceedings from the front row of the courtroom, and at one point, the two quietly swapped seats with each other.
In her testimony, Ms Mansoor told the court that she appeared before a National Accountability Bureau investigation officer on Aug 25, 2017 and provided “certified true copies of ‘form A’ and ‘form 29’ regarding Mehran Ramzan Textile Mills Limited, in the context of its three shareholders Mian Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz”.
She told the court that according to a document dated Dec 31, 2000, Hussain held 487,400 shares, valued at Rs10 each, of the Mehran Ramzan mill.
On Feb 12, 2001, he donated/gifted all the shares to the Sharif Trust, which then transferred 1,000 shares back to him on Mar 16, 2001.
However, during cross-examination, she clarified that all shareholders of the Mehran Ramzan mills had initially donated their shares to the Sharif Trust, which had later returned 1,000 shares to each shareholder, adding that this was not an action exclusive to Hussain Nawaz.
When Nawaz Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed asked her if she had any records of Azizia Steel or Hill Metal Establishment in Jeddah, she replied in the negative.
The counsel then asked whether there was any transaction between the two companies and Mehran Ramzan Textile Mill, to which Ms Mansoor said there was no connection as per the record.
To another question, the SECP official said that the commission had never raised any objection on the record of Mehran Ramzan Textile Mills.
Other witnesses who testified included former Inland Revenue Service regional tax officer Mohammad Tasleem Khan, Mohammad Zubair of Standard Chartered Bank – who recorded his statement in the Azizia reference – and Uzair Rehan, who submitted the records of Chaudhry Sugar Mills in connections with the Flagship Investments case.
The hearing will continue on Jan 16, when witnesses Nasir Junejo, Afaq Ahmed and Umar Draz Gondal are expected to record their statements.
As prosecution witnesses testified against him, Nawaz Sharif nonchalantly chatted with party leaders who accompanied him to the court.
At one point, he swapped seats with his daughter so he could speak at length to Raja Zafarul Haq.
The former prime minister also interacted with mediapersons covering the trial inside the courtroom, asking them sarcastically in Punjabi: “Aey kee ho reya ae saday naal?” (What are we being subjected to?). Maryam Nawaz quickly chimed in, saying: “Mazaq ho raha hai” (It’s a farce).
Chatting with Raja Zafarul Haq, Mr Sharif narrated an anecdote about a film producer who invested heavily in a movie.
After it was released, someone asked the producer how his film was doing at the box office, to which the producer replied: “Pehlay haftay zabardast, doosray haftay zabardasti!” (The first week was excellent, the second week was forced).
This was seen as a pot shot at the NAB references that had created so much hype at the beginning, but nothing substantial has come to the fore yet during prosecution.