Al-Azizia reference: Nawaz Sharif distances himself from Qatari letters

  • Nawaz Sharif claims having no relationship with operational affairs of Gulf Steel Mills

ISLAMABAD – Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday denied links with Qatari letters, which had earlier been presented in supreme court by Sharif family to prove its money trail in the Panamagate case.

The former premier stated this while recording his statement in the Al-Azizia reference being heard by an accountability court in the capital city.

Raising objections over the investigation report prepared by the apex court mandated joint investigation team in the Panama Papers case, he said: “I am not involved in any kind of transaction in any way.

Qatari Letters

Qatari Prince Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani hit headlines in the country when a letter attributed to him by the then ruling Sharif family was submitted in the Supreme Court on Nov 15, 2016.

The letter suggested that Jassim’s elders had business terms with the father of the then Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif and the business ties eventually led to the purchase of upscale Avenfield House flats in London.

The letter addressing the apex court stated that in 1980, Mian Muhammad Sharif (Nawaz Sharif’s father) invested 12 million Dirhams in the Al Thani company belonging to the Qatari prince’s father.

“In the year 2006, the accounts in relation to the above investment were settled between Hussain Nawaz Sharif and Al Thani family, who then delivered the bearer shares of the companies referred in para 4 above to a representative of Hussain Nawaz Sharif,” the letter read.

In January 2017, another letter attributed to the same prince was furnished before the top court explaining that the investment quoted in first letter was ‘made by way of provision of cash, which was a common practice in the Gulf region’.

Security Arrangements

Strict security arrangements were put in place when the former premier appeared before Judge Arshad Malik who is conducting the hearings.

Previous Hearing

During the hearing on Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif testified before the accountability court that he neither owned Al-Azizia Steel Mills nor he was engaged in establishing or overseeing the company.

Mr Sharif recorded his statement under Section 342 of the criminal procedure code (CrPC). Out of over 100 questions, he answered 44 on the first day.

Responding to a question about his address to the nation as prime minister in which he presented his stance regarding the acquisition of Gulf Steel Mills, Mr Sharif sought immunity.

‘It is submitted that subject to my objection that the said speech cannot be read in view of Article 66 of the Constitution, the speech made by me on May 16, 2016 was based on copies of the various agreements and related documents pertaining to Dubai factory and another agreement related to Al-Azizia Steel Co,’ Sharif replied.

SC admits NAB’s appeal against suspension of Sharifs’ conviction in Avenfield reference

The supreme leader of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz said that he had never participated in any of the transactions pertaining to the establishment and running of business of Gulf Steel Mills or its sale and subsequent use/disposal of its sale proceeds.

Nawaz Sharif argued that the prosecution miserably failed to bring on record any evidence to even remotely establish anything to the contrary.

TO a query as why he did not join the investigations pursuant to the NAB notice, Mr Sharif said that these notices were neither served on him nor any attempt was made to do so.

Asked if he was the most influential figure of the Sharif family, the ex-PM replied that his late father Mian Mohammad Sharif was the most influential man.

Regarding his own tax returns, Mr Sharif said that following the military coup in 1999, he was forced to leave Pakistan; he testified that he lived in exile in Saudi Arabia from 2001 till 2008.

The court later summoned the investigation officer in Flagship Investment reference for cross-examination by defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed on Thursday when the former prime minister would continue to record his statement.

As many as three references have been filed against Nawaz Sharif in line with the directives of the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case verdict – a decision that ousted Nawaz Sharif from the PM House in July last year.

The accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir had sentenced elder Sharif to ten years in the Avenfield reference. However, the conviction was suspended by a two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court.

NAB has moved supreme court against the decision of the Islamabad High Court which would hear the case on December 12.

Besides Sharif, Maryam Nawaz was sentenced to 7 years and Captain Safdar was sentenced to one year in prison in the Avenfield reference which pertains to the pricey flats of the former ruling family.