ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and PML-N Quaid Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was on Friday sentenced to 11 years in jail in the Avenfield Apartments corruption reference. The verdict is likely to influence the July 25 general election.
Accountability Court-I judge Muhammad Bashir awarded the 11-year rigorous imprisonment to Nawaz with £8 million fine, while his daughter Maryam Nawaz was awarded eight-year imprisonment with £2 million fine.
Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar was handed down two-year rigorous imprisonment.
As a whole, Nawaz will serve 10 years, Maryam seven and Captain Safdar one year in jail, as all the three were awarded one-year sentence each under offences other than 9(a)(v). The sentences will run concurrently.
Additional sentence has been awarded to the three accused for not attending the NAB investigation proceedings when the bureau issued notices asking them to appear and verify the statements they had recorded with the JIT, and also the documents.
The court order said the four Avenfield London apartments stood forfeited under Section 10(a) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.
The court also disqualified all the three accused from holding any public office for 10 years or availing themselves of bank loans for the same period under Section 15 of the NAO.
About Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, the judge said: “Both are absconding; therefore, they are declared proclaimed offenders. Non-bailable perpetual warrants for arrest shall be issued against them."
Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar have been awarded sentences under Section 9(a)(v) of NAO that reads “9 (a) A holder of a public office, or any other person, is said to commit or to have committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practices-(v) if he or any of his dependents or benamidar owns, possesses, or has 4[acquired] right or title in any [“assets or holds irrevocable power of attorney in respect of any assets] or pecuniary resources disproportionate to his known sources of income, which he cannot 1[reasonably] account for 2[or maintains a standard of living beyond that which is commensurate with his sources of income]; or”.
The court order said since all the four ingredients of 9(a)(v) were established; therefore, heavy burden was shifted to the accused.
Interestingly, the court has acquitted Nawaz of the charges under Section 9(a) (iv) saying that the prosecution could not produce bright evidence in this regard.
The Section 9(a) (iv) reads “9 (a) A holder of a public office, or any other person, is said to commit or to have committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practices (iv) if he by corrupt, dishonest, or illegal means, obtains or seeks to obtain for himself, or for his spouse or dependents or any other person, any property, valuable thing, or pecuniary advantage; or”
About Maryam Nawaz, the court held that the trust deeds produced by her were also found bogus.
“The accused Maryam Nawaz was instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father accused Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. This accused, Maryam Nawaz, aided, assisted, abetted, attempted and acted in conspiracy with her father accused Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif who was holder of public office. Therefore, the prosecution has succeeded to establish her guilt within the meaning of Section 9(a)(v)(xii) NAO.1999 read with serial No.2 of the schedule and punishable u/s 10 and schedule attach therewith. In view of the role of this accused Mst. Maryam Nawaz, she is convicted and sentenced to Rigorous Imprisonment for seven years with fine of two million pounds under Section u/s 9(a)(v) (xii) NAO.1999/ read with Section 10 of NAO 1999 and simple imprisonment for one year under Serial No.2 of the schedule. Both the sentences shall run concurrently”.
The court held that there was no dispute about the opinion of Robert Radley that the Calibri font was not commercially available before January 31, 2007. It said the trust deeds were produced by Maryam Nawaz to mislead the court and these were not prepared on the date noted on these.
It said before 2006, possession of an offshore company was possible through bearer shares certificates. After the law was changed in 2006, the accused required to register these shares certificates and there the crime was detected.
About Maryam’s husband Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, the court held: “The accused Muhammad Safdar had signed the trust deeds as witness, he aided, assisted, abetted, attempted and acted in conspiracy with the accused Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Safdar within the meaning of Section u/s 9(a)(v) (xii) NAO, 1999 read with Section 10 of NAO1999 and Serial No.2 of the schedule and he is convicted and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for one year under Section 9(a)(v)(xii) NAO 1999 read with Section 10 of NAO and one year under Serial No.2 of schedule attached with NAO 1999”.
The order said certain documents were produced before the court that established that Maryam Nawaz remained beneficial owner of Nielsen and Nescoll prior to 2006 — the two offshore companies that owned the Avenfield properties.
The Avenfield properties were purchased in 1993, 1995 & 1996. At the relevant time in 1993, Maryam aged 18, Hussain Nawaz 20 and Hassan Nawaz 17 and they had no independent source of income.
At tender age children remain dependent on their parents and Nawaz Sharif cannot say that he did not provide any money to them for the purchase of flats.
Hassan Nawaz in his interview accepted that the flats remained in their possession. Accused Hassan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and even Mian Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz have never stated that the bearer shares of Nielsen and Nescoll were procured as a result of investment with the Qatari royal family in their interviews/speeches, the court said.
In response to the stance taken by the Sharif family that Tariq Shafi had handed over 12 million UAE Dirhams to the Qatari Royal family for investment on behalf of Mian Muhammad Sharif, the court noted that Qatari Prince Hammad bin Jasim had not noted the name of Muhammad Tariq Shafi to be representative of Mian Muhammad Sharif while giving cash amount for investment purpose.
The court said Hammad bin Jasim did not provide any documents in support of his contentions in the letter written to the joint investigation team (JIT). It said withholding of relevant documents from the court can be presumed as that submission of documents would be adverse to interest of withholder of the documents.
It said in the order of Justice Queen’s Bench Division London against Hudabiya Paper Mills in the case that was filed by Al-Towfeek Investment Company, it was said by the prosecution that neither Nawaz Sharif nor his children were defendant in that case. It is however proved that Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz were among the directors of Hudabiya Paper Mills. And when the Avenfield apartments were attached on the orders of Justice Queen’s Bench, the Qatari family showed no interest in them in 1999 and in fact it was members of the Sharif family who defended the case.
The court also held that the Capital FZE on whose Iqama Nawaz Sharif was disqualified to hold the public office had concern with other offshore companies of Hassan Nawaz as he had obtained loan against the Avenfield apartments for those companies.
Meanwhile, no PML-N worker was seen today in the court proceedings except Dr Asif Kirmani and Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.
Talking to the media, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said they will challenge this decision and the real decision was going to come on July 25 when the people of Pakistan will prove their love for Nawaz Sharif.
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