Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – A joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the money trail of the Sharif family in the purview of Panama case judgment has sought the complete record of Hudaibya Paper Mills scam from the National Accountability Bureau.

According to a report by Express Tribune, the six-member JIT has asked the graft buster to provide the full record of the 17-years-old Hudaibya Paper Mills case and legal experts believe that the development can dent the reputation of embattled ruling family.

The apex court in its April 20 verdict on the Panamagate, observed that the JIT may examine evidence and material, available with the FIA and NAB relating to London flats and other assets of Sharif family.

According to documents submitted by the accountability watchdog before the Supreme Court on Monday, seventeen years ago, NAB had claimed that the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family received over Rs1 billion “through illegal and fraudulent means” and that they were liable to be tried under anti-corruption laws.

The NAB proceedings that hark back to year 2000 came to light when the bureau’s prosecutor general, Waqas Qadeer Dar, submitted two references related to the Hudaibya Paper Mills scam and ‘illegal’ construction of the Sharif family’s Raiwind estate before the apex court.

According to the NAB documents Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, father Mian Muhammad Sharif, brothers Shehbaz Sharif and Abbas Sharif, Abbas’ wife Sabiha, Nawaz’s son Hussain and Shahbaz’s son Hamza, had been accused of receiving ‘ill-gotten money’ in the case.

“All accused persons in collusion and with the connivance of each other appear to have committed acts of corruption and corrupt practices as defined under Section 9 read with Section 10 of the NAB Ordinance,” NAB’s former chairman Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool had told an accountability court.

It is interesting to note that NAB had filed two references in the Hudaibya Paper Mills case. Incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was nominated as an accused in the initial reference. But NAB in its final reference excluded his name after he recorded a confessional statement.

“There was an unexplained investment of Rs642.743 million appearing in books of the mill as share deposit money. The same belonged to the directors/shareholders and beneficial owners of the company, which they had fraudulently amassed under the garb of foreign equity investment,” said the final reference.

The reference suggested that the company in 1999 settled its loan with the London-based Al Towfeek Company for Investment Funds by making a payment of $8.7 million and the source of this payment also appeared to be doubtful.

“It appears from the evidence that in order to launder and conceal their ill-gotten wealth, both the Sharif brothers appeared to have fraudulently opened fictitious foreign currency accounts in the names of various individuals with the active connivance of some of their close associates and employees” it said.

“The amounts that have been deposited in the said accounts stand unexplained and appear to be beyond the known source of income of the accused individuals,” the reference added.

NAB in its final reference submitted that fraudulent accounts and deposits were used by the accused persons as collateral to obtain loans from various financial institutions.

In 2014, the Lahore High Court disposed of the Hudaibya Paper Mills reference against the Sharif family and NAB did not challenge the LHC decision in the Supreme Court, for which its chairman was reprimanded by the apex court amid Panama case hearing.

In another reference, NAB had submitted documents before the Supreme Court about alleged illegal construction of the Raiwind estate, wherein the prime minister and his parents had been nominated as accused.

The reference stated that the Federal Investigation Agency had probed the illegal construction of houses at Raiwind and it was found that an area measuring 401 kanals was illegally acquired by the prime minister and his mother where palatial mansions and other ancillary buildings were built.

It bears mention that the Hudaibia paper mills case was discussed rigorously in the Supreme Court as well. Incumbent finance minister Ishaq Dar had alleged before a magistrate back in 2000 that Sharif brothers used the Hudaibya Paper Mills as a cover for money laundering during the late 1990s.

In his confessional statement on April 4, 2000, in connection with the Hudabya Papers Mills Limited (HPML) case, Dar said that he had good relations with Masood Ahmed Qazi since 1970 and during his stay in London in early 1970s, he was staying with the Qazi family at Ilford, Essex (1970-72).

In his confessional statement submitted before NAB, Dar said, “Masood Ahmad Qazi belonged to a middle class family and he used to treat me as one of his family members.”

Dar went on to say, “As far as their financial status in the year 1992 is concerned, according to my information there was no significant improvement in the previous status of the middle class family.”

The finance minister stated that he established a Modaraba company named First Hajveri Modarba Company (FHMC), a Non-Banking Financial Institution (NDFI) in 1990 and the company started its functions next year with a paid up capital of Rs150 million, Dawn news reported.

He said that Nawaz Sharif had been his batchmate at Govt College Lahore during 1964 to 1966, “however, we had no intimacy at the time.” He came closer to Sharif family in 1990 after he was being recognised at the national level, particularly for his suggestions on national budgets, reads the statement.

According to the document, Dar introduced the Qazi family to Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif in 1990 at a function in Lahore.

“In early 1992, Mian Nawaz Sharif, who was then prime minister of Pakistan, contacted me and requested to provide credit line of approximately Rs100 million to the business concerns of his family, from my Modaraba… subsequently, he sent me photocopies of the passports of Mrs Sikandar Masood Qazi, Nuzhat Gohar, Talat Masood Qazi and Kashif Masood Qazi (family members of Masood Qazi).

“He asked me to open/operate foreign currency accounts in their names in different banks with the foreign currency funds provided by the Sharif family,” it reads.

Following the presentation of details of transitions and other financial matters, Dar said: “They (Sharifs) made all this arrangement as they could not have explainable sources of these funds which ultimately landed in one of their companies.”

Nonetheless, Ishaq Dar and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif claimed that the confessional statement was taken under duress.