Friday June 21, 2024

NAB wants Nawaz behind the bars for ‘crimes’ committed by others

By Azam Khan & Usman Manzoor
February 07, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), in the three cases against former prime minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif that are being heard in the Accountability Court, has demanded punishment for the former PM for the alleged ‘crimes’ attributed to others.

At no point in the investigation, the NAB could establish any direct link of Nawaz Sharif with the allegations for which he is being tried. The references also lack any evidence that public money was used by Sharifs to accumulate properties and businesses abroad.

NAB references which have been prepared on the findings of WhatsApp calls-fame Joint Investigation Team and filed in the accountability court upon the orders of the Supreme Court does not mention a single incident of direct involvement of Mian Nawaz Sharif in any of the accusations framed by the JIT, however, NAB demands punishment for Nawaz Sharif merely on the assumptions made by the JIT and bought by NAB. In the references filed in the Accountability Court, NAB has not dug out even a slightest thing other than the Panama Papers case JIT’s findings, and NAB has only adopted the JIT report as a whole in the four references filed against the Sharifs and Ishaq Dar.

Nawaz Sharif is facing three references, establishment of Flagship Investment and other companies; AvenField apartments’ case and hill Metal/Al-Azizia Steel Mills establishment. Establishment of Flagship Investment Limited and other companies:

Regarding the establishment of the companies, the reference against Mian Nawaz Sharif says that a) Flagship Investment Limited was established on 04-12-2001 and Hassan Nawaz was its director.

b) Hartstone Properties Limited: this company was incorporated on 22-03-2002. Hassan Nawaz was its director.

c) Que Holdings Limited: it was established on 15-07-2003; Hassan Nawaz was the director.

d) Quint Eaton Place 2 Limited: this company was incorporated on 13-11-2003 and Hassan Nawaz was director and company secretary.

e) Quint Sloane Limited: It was incorporated on 19-11-2003 while Hassan Nawaz was its director and secretary.

f) Quint Limited: it was established on 14-07-2003 again Hassan Nawaz was its director and secretary.

g) Flagship Securities Limited: the instant company was incorporated on 25-07-2005; Hassan Nawaz was its director.

h) Quint Gloucester Place Limited: established in 2006.

i) Quint Paddingon Limited; incorporated in 2006.

j) Flagship Development Limited: established on 15-09-2010 while Hassan Nawaz was its director.

k) Alanna Services Limited (BVI): the company has 20% shareholding in Quint Eaton Place 2 Limited and owned by Hassan Nawaz. However, Hassan Nawaz told the JIT that the company belongs to Asim Mehmood, his close friend.

l) Lamkin SA (BVI): the instant company has 30% shareholding in Quint Limited. It is owned by Hassan Nawaz. Hassan Nawaz also attributed the ownership of this company to Asim Mehmood.

m) Coomber Inc (BVI): the Instant Company is owned by Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz and it has financed money to Flagships Securities Limited and Que Holdings Limited owned by Hassan Nawaz.

n) Capital FZE UAE: the company was established in 2001 by Hassan Nawaz.

The JIT has alleged that a sum of GBP 2.477 million was injected in the above mentioned companies of Hassan Nawaz while his known sources of income did not match the stats of investment in flagships and other company’s investments. Hussain Nawaz told the JIT that during the exile, they got financing from Al-Thani Family of Qatar and his brother Hussain Nawaz as source of investment in the above mentioned companies.

Having discussed the companies at length, the JIT and now the NAB in its reference jumped to the conclusion that because the companies belonged to Hassan Nawaz therefore Nawaz Sharif should be punished under corruption laws embedded in the NAB ordinance. The reference talks about ownership of Flagship Investments and tries to establish that these were owned by Hassan Nawaz, which the junior Sharif has admitted publically and before the JIT as well. But, NAB strangely demands punishment for Nawaz Sharif. At the end of the investigation report that made the basis of the reference, the NAB concluded that “Hassan Nawaz was merely used as a proxy by Nawaz Sharif to build family assets abroad.”

Regarding Flagship Investment Limited and other companies set up/taken over by Hassan Nawaz Sharif, the Sharifs have responded that Flagship was started with modest capital. The business model of Flagship is that they buy a rundown property, develop it to a very high standard (takes average 2.5 years per property sometimes even more) and then sell it. It's easy to find buyers in London given the high demand. Hence they get paid for value addition, appreciation in the price of the property in the time the work goes on. Normally if the estimated cost of the project including its redevelopment is say 2 million pounds, 0.5 million pounds is paid as equity whereas 1.5 million is bank loan. It is very easy to sell such property for 2.5 million (even more) after 2.5 years. Since one’s equity was 0.5 million, one can easily double it. Flagship has done dozens of projects like this and sold them. There is no working capital required in such business. The money that was used in Flagship came from these sources: - a) From the Qatari prince; b) from the sale proceeds of Al Azizia Steel money was given to Hassan Sharif by his elder brother Hussain Sharif. c) In 2007 after the Park Lane apartments were transferred to Hussain Sharif, he let his brother Hassan mortgage those properties and borrow against them from Deutsche Bank. That money was used in the business giving it the real boost. The loan was paid off in installments and completed in 2015.

AvenField Apartments Reference:

The second reference filed by NAB against the Sharifs pertains to the London flats and ownership of offshore companies. The NAB again adopted the flawed JIT report on the whole and filed the reference. This too is not different from the Flagship Investment reference as after discussing the alleged role of other accused persons at length, NAB jumped to the conclusion that Nawaz Sharif should be sent behind the bars for the alleged acts done by others.

The reference being heard by Accountability Court states that Gulf Steel Mills was in the actual ownership of late Mian Muhammad Sharif, while it was being run by benamidar owners Tariq Shafi and Muhammad Hussain. This assumption has been directly bought from the JIT report. The reference also mentions that sale agreement of 1980s submitted by Sharif Family before SC does not exist and same is unauthentic, fictitious and fabricated.

Department of justice UAE also stated that not any scrap machinery transported from Dubai to Jeddah in 2001-02.

The reference states that the accused persons claim that Mian Sharif invested 12 million AED in real estate business in Qatar through Al-Thani family and the claim was also supported by two letters of Qatari prince. As per spread sheet submitted by accused persons 12 million AED were equivalent to 3.25 million USD and profits were calculated as per annual interest rate and it was claimed on worksheet that the said amount of 3.25 million USD swell to 21 million USD in 2000 as per calculations made on the basis of interest rate calculated. Out of said 21 million USD, $8m were settlement of Al-Towfeeq litigation; $5.41m were paid for establishment of Al-Azizia steel mills in KSA, $3.27 million were paid to Hassan Nawaz Sharif for setting up his businesses in UK and finally remaining amount of $8m including profits was settled against the bearers certificates of two offshore companies who owned the Avenfiled apartments.

NAB, while buying JIT’s argument, mentioned in its investigation report that is part of the reference that Al-Thani family was never the owner of the London apartments because it did not become party to the Al-Tawfeeq litigation in 1999. Thee NAB report reproduced the JIT finings and interestingly, narrated that after the death of Mian Sharif in 2004, a family asset settlement was executed between the Sharif family in 2009 and there was no mention of Avenfield properties which led the JIT to conclude that the said properties were not among the inherited properties of Mian Sharif and were in sole ownership of accused Mian Nawaz Sharif and his dependents.

The entire case revolves around Mian Sharif, Tariq Shafi, Muhammad Hussain, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz but the NAB wants Nawaz Sharif to be punished. What the JIT had established is another laughable stuff.

Establishment of Hill Metals and Al-Azizia Steel Mills:

In the third reference against the Sharif family states that Nawaz Sharif in connivance and abetment with his sons acquired assets in their names as benamidars for which he could not reasonably account for and are disproportionate to his known sources of income.

Remittances to the extent of Euro 1267568 and $10219155 sent by Hussain Nawaz and Hill Metals establishment during the period Jan 2010 to June 2017. These foreign currency receipts were converted and credited to Nawaz Sharif’s account. NAB concluded that Nawaz Sharif is the actual beneficial owner of Hill Metals and Al-Azizia Steel Mills while his sons were the benamidar owners.

The News has investigated that regarding transportation of “scrap machinery” from Dubai to Jeddah, the term “Scrap Machinery” was apparently used to confuse Dubai authorities instead of asking about any movement of machinery. There is no HS code covering ‘scarp machinery’. The term used on the documents is an Arabic term meaning “steel mills machinery”. There are 28 receipts of original Dubai Custom documents of trucks of the machinery in the dates September 3, 2001 to September 14, 2001. Even Saudi Custom’s receipts of arrival of the machinery in Jeddah are also available but the JIT didn’t see them. Regarding the Hill Metals (HME), it was formed after 2005 when Al Azizia Steel was sold. The proceeds of Al Azizia Steel were Saudi Riyal 63 million while SR 40 million became 25% equity for Hill Metals. Two Saudi banks and the state owned Saudi Industrial Development Fund financed the remaining 75%.

Regarding the remittances it has been stated in the reference that 88 percent of the net profits of Hill Metals were remitted to Nawaz Sharif between 2010-15 and hence Nawaz Sharif being the major beneficiary is also the real owner of the Hill Metals. A certificate issued by a member firm of Grant Thornton International, a globally leading firm of chartered accountants, Saudi Arabia confirms that the net profits of Hill Metals between 2010-15 were Saudi Riyals 37.427 million, equivalent to PKR1.029 billion.

Figures obtained reveal that the actual remittances made by Hill Metals to ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif between 2010-15 were PKR938 million. The actual cash generated by Hill Metals during the said years, according to documents which were also available with the JIT, was PKR4.831 billion, therefore such remittances constitute only 19.40% and not 88% as alleged by the JIT.