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Monday November 29, 2021

UK authorities leave NAB team high and dry

February 03, 2018

LONDON: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team that recently visited London failed to make a breakthrough in its quest for obtaining actionable evidence in relation to the ongoing cases against Nawaz Sharif and his children. 

The NAB team has taken to Pakistan the notarised version of the same old documents that were produced by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) before the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan and Hasan Nawaz Sharif had given the same to the SC during the Panama case hearing.

The News has learnt on authority that the UK’s Central Authority (UKCA) International Criminality Unit and National Crime Agency (NCAhad not shared any new information with the NAB by way of the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) either in the three visits by the NAB officers. 

A NAB source has confirmed that no other organ of the state has provided any information against Hasan and Hussain Nawaz Sharif which could helpful for the NAB in its case.

The News has learnt that the NAB team stayed in London for around a week and held meetings with the UK government officials – at the Home Office and the National Crime Agency – under Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) terms. 

The NAB team has made the old documents legalised through a notary public who visited Pakistan High Commission to affix his seal to the papers for notarisation. A source at Pakistan High Commission confirmed that Notary Public London (Charles Drostan Gurthie, LLB, TEP; Golden Cross House, 8 Duncannon Street, London) certified the papers for NAB and Pakistan High Commission officials visited Charles Gurthie's office near Charing Cross. During the course of Panama hearings, Hasan Nawaz Sharif had given full accounts of these companies to the court and it’s the record of the same companies that the NAB is set to file again in the supplementary Flagship reference.

However, an official NAB source, on condition of anonymity, categorically denied all this, saying that the time will tell what we have in our coffers. The JIT had said that Hasan Nawaz Sharif (referred to as ‘Respondent No 8) owned Flagship Investments Limited; Hartstone Properties Limited; Que Holdings Limited; Quint Easton Place 2 Limited; Quint Sloane Limited; Quint Limited; Flagship Securities Limited; Quint Gloucester Limited; Quint Paddington Limited; and Flagship Developments Limited.

These are the same companies that the JIT claimed were owned by Hasan Nawaz Sharif and were made part of the JIT’s Volume 7 titled “Flagship Investments Limited & Companies”. An investigation by The News shows that most of these companies were used as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company to buy and sell and were then either shut down, sold and some never traded for a day and have no assets attached to them.

The Flagship Investments Limited is currently alive but has no assets to its name; Hartstone Properties Limited was used as an SPV to buy a property and liquidated as soon its assets was sold; Que Holdings Limited is currently alive but has no assets; Quint Easton Place 2 Limited was liquidated years ago; Quint Sloane Limited was established but never used and ended years ago; Quint Limited was liquidated; Flagship Securities Limited was liquidated; Quint Gloucester Limited was liquidated around five years ago; Quint Paddington Limited is alive but has no assets; and Flagship Developments Limited was made but it never traded.

The News has learnt after getting the record of these companies notarised in Pakistan High Commission, the NAB team took the bundle to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) where the FCO officials, after charging a premier service rate, confirmed the notary stamps as genuine and then Pakistan High Commission confirmed the FCO stamp – as is the procedure.

The source said that this exercise has been done to make the documents “legal” before being presented before the NAB court. The News has learnt that Charles Guthrie Solicitor & Notary Public was called around ten days ago to Pakistan High Commission where he notarised around 30 pages in total and charged the premier rate for his services.

The News had reported that the UK refused to give information to Pakistan on Hasan Nawaz Sharif, a British national, and agreed to give information to Pakistan on Hussain Nawaz Sharif under MLA but Pakistani authorities have been told that Hussain doesn’t have bank accounts in the UK. The NAB team has found nothing on him and nothing new on Hasan Nawaz Sharif, said the source.

The News has learnt that the papers that the NAB got notarised in the latest trip to the UK, third such trip in around two months, are the same papers that already carried stamps by Quist Solicitors – the law firm owned by Wajid Zia’s cousin Akhtar Raja – and Pakistan High Commission but this time the NAB team decided to get the same paper downloaded from the Companies House website.

The NAB team obtained notary certification of these companies which includes the licences of these companies, their trading history, associated assets and the papers used to set these up. These companies were opened, operated and liquidated as per the UK law. A spokesman for the Companies House said that these companies never breached any rules and that it never had any concern about their operations. It said that these companies were set up to buy properties from the open market and sold after development and refurbishment.

The JIT had noted that Hasan Nawaz Sharif used three Avenfield apartments (118-127 Park Lane, London, W1K 7AF) to finance his UK companies. These flats have been owned by Hussain Nawaz Sharif since 2006.

Notarisation means that a lawyer having the licence to notarise documents (known as notary public) is provided with a document he only certifies it as a copy and without verifying the authenticity of its contents. It is a simple procedure in every country to certify copies of documents like university degrees. Such process even exists in Pakistan whereby notorsied documents are later also authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Islamabad. The documents notarised are public documents mostly attachments to tax returns available to any citizen upon payment of a small fee. These documents have neither been provided to NAB under MLA by the UK authorities nor are deemed by them to have in any sense breached the law.

A NAB team arrived in London in middle of January last month and stayed here for over a week. The team included NAB Director General (Operations) Zahir Shah, Director Rizwan Ahmed and Investigation Officer Muhammad Kamran.

It is pertinent to mention here that in the light of Supreme Court July 28, 2017 verdict, the NAB had filed three references pertaining to Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship investments in an accountability court against the Sharif family.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, his daughter Maryum Nawaz and his son-in-law MNA Capt (R) Safdar have been accused in the reference filed by the NAB but all of them deny any wrongdoing and stress that these cases are politically motivated. A spokesman for Pakistan High Commission said he didn’t wish to comment.