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Accountability Court to Announce Verdict on Cases Against Nawaz Sharif Shortly

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Accountability Court is all set to announce its verdict on the two references against the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Judge Accountability Court Number-II Muhammad Arshad Malik will announce the verdict, which he had reserved on December 19 after concluding the trail.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed the Flagship Investments and Al-Azizia Steel Mills references against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif in September 2017 on the directions of the apex court in the Panama Leaks case.

Nawaz arrived in Islamabad from Lahore on Sunday, a day ahead of the verdict. He is expected to hear the judgement in the courtroom today. Entry to the accountability court has been restricted.

No one is being allowed inside the court except those having the permission of the registrar.

Security has been beefed up around the judicial complex, with heavy contingents of police and Rangers deployed around the building and along roads leading to the court.

Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments

On July 28, 2017, the supreme court had disqualified then prime minister Nawaz from in the Panama case. The apex court had 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, 2018, Islamabad Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir had sentenced Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz,  and Capt Mohammad Safdar (retd) to prison for verified terms.

Nawaz Sharif was jailed for 10 years in Avenfield Properties reference while Maryam was jailed for even years and her husband Capt (retd) Muhammad Safder for one year.

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.

Accountability court Judge Mohammad Bashir, who had announced the Avenfield verdict, had recused himself from hearing the two remaining references against Nawaz.

The cases were then shifted to the court of Judge Arshad Malik.

NAB’s special prosecutor says the case against the Sharifs revolves 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 has failed to justify the source of the funds provided to set up the firms and therefore, this is a case of owning assets beyond means.

The Sharif family has taken the stance that it was out of the AED 12m that the late Mian Sharif invested with the Qatari royal family, the prosecution says, and that Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani did not appear before the joint investigation team (JIT) to verify the details.

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.