ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court while handing down judgement in Al-Azizia steel Mills reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has relied upon the JIT’s head Wajid Zia’s testimony and a tricky Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) sent by the JIT, to get a desired response against the Sharifs, to the UAE authorities regarding transportation of steel mills from UAE to Jeddah.
The judgement, while sentencing Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison, heavily relied on the MLA sent by the JIT to the UAE and the response thereof and the judge has negated the stance taken by Khawaja Haris, the attorney for former premier.
The judgement says that the “allegations of misleading information being provided by the JIT to the UAE Central Authority or of any collusion between the JIT and the UAE Central Authority is unfounded and without merit as the same complete document was available with the UAE Central Authority before it sent its response dated 28-6-2017. Similarly, the objection with regard to alleged false description of goods covered by the Letter of Credit is also unfounded as Letter of Credit itself was submitted with that particular MLA request and also the question framed for the UAE Central Authority, as per evidence, specifically mentions that the question pertains to scrap machinery "of Ahli Steel Mills" which was transported from Dubai to Jeddah (KSA) for establishment of Al Azizia Steel Mills, leaving no doubt that the query was related to the "machinery" of the Al Ahli Steel Mills. It is not contested by the defence rather emphasised that GSM (or later Al Ahli Steel Mills) was established and located in UAE. Hence, irrespective of the route taken for the same to reach KSA from the UAE, the said machinery would have, inevitably and of necessity, been first dismantled in Dubai, UAE where the said factory was claimed to be situated and thereafter, the same may have been transported elsewhere within the UAE for dispatch to KSA so the broader question of the machinery going from Dubai its initial and original location to Jeddah its claimed destination can neither be termed false or misleading.
It is worth mentioning that both Dubai and Sharjah are part of UAE, and thus have one and the same "Central Authority" for the purposes of MLA responses of which has sent the reply after addressing the competent authorities. If anything, the question framed by the JIT for the UAE Central Authority provides more specific details than those given in the Letter of Credit itself and the underlying object and overall context of the question is quite clear from the question posed to the Central Authority of the UAE as per the evidence, besides providing a copy of the Letter of Credit itself. Hence, the objections in this regard are rejected being misconceived, unfounded and contrary to the evidence.”
However, during the cross examination regarding transportation of machinery from Sharjah to Jeddah, Khawaja Haris had asked Wajid Zia if he knew that the machinery for setting up mills in Saudi Arabia was sent from Sharjah to Jeddah and not from Dubai to Jeddah. Zia replied that an MLA was sent to UAE and Sharjah was part of UAE. Upon which, Haris asked, “Do you know the Letter of Credit attached with the JIT report says that it was a secondhand re-rolling mills and not scrap?” Zia after reading the LC replied with a yes. Then Zia answered to Haris’ question that no MLA was sent by JIT to the UAE authorities to confirm any transportation of secondhand re-rolling mill from Sharjah to Jeddah in 2001-2003.
Regarding transportation of “scrap machinery” from Dubai to Jeddah, The News had reported it during the proceedings of the case that 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 were not considered.