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February 27, 2020

No bar on NAB to probe Chaudhry Sugar Mills: LHC

National

February 27, 2020

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has ruled that there is no bar on the National Accountability Bureau to probe the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM), owned by the Sharif family, as the CSM never came under discussion during the Panama case hearing in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

“It had not been denied by either party that during the proceedings in the Panama case, the CSM never remained subject of discussion, therefore, in our considered view, the NAB can possibly probe the matter,” a two-member bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, wrote in the detailed verdict on the post-arrest bail granted to Yousaf Abbas Sharif, nephew of Nawaz Sharif, in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

Abbas's counsel had argued that the petitioner is facing double jeopardy as a Joint Investigation Team has already probed the matter on the order of the Supreme Court and references were filed. He pointed out that charge in respect of the CSM was also framed in the Al-Azizia reference, therefore, the petition is facing repeated prosecution which, according to him, is not permissible under Article 13 of the Constitution and Section 403 of the CrPC.

“Article 13 of the Constitution and Section 403 of Criminal Procedure Code did not support the petitioner’s case as the question of double jeopardy would not arise in his favour,” the court ruled.

The court said Yousaf Abbas had prima facie shown his money trail linked to foreigners. “In our considered view the petitioner prima facie has shown his money trail linked to foreigners, leaving the prosecution to further probe allegation against the petitioner.” Naseer Abdullah Husain Lootha, a UAE national, admitted before the NAB that he sent the money back to Yousaf Abbas out of the investment made by his family in the real estate business, it added.

Furthermore, the court ruled that a telegraphic transaction sent to Yousaf Abbas’s account in Pakistan as a profit/investment would shift the onus back to the prosecution to prove it as a dubious transaction. However, the court said the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s record did not show that Lootah was not the shareholder of the CSM and his denial to this fact needed further probe as well.

As far as his statement before a magisterial court is concerned, the court was of the view that it was recorded in absence of Abbas’s counsel without giving him right to cross-examination and its effect would be considered by the trail court after recording evidence.

“Neither the statement of three other foreign nationals namely Saeed Saif Bin Jabar Al Suwidi, Sh Zakaud Din and Hani Ahmed Jamjoom had been recorded nor they were nominated as accused in the present case, the court mentioned.

On the issuing of money laundering, the court ruled that Section 3 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 revealed that there has to be some nexus with the crime proceed and the same was missing in the instant case.

“The circumstance of the case suggested that prima facie the petitioner did not actively participated, connived, abetted or aided the acquired assets disproportionate to the known sources of income since no connection of the petitioner was established with the foreign nationals in order to persuade them to invest in the CSM to attract the provision of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010,” the court added.

“The petitioner’s case is on a par with Maryam Nawaz and she has already been granted bail, therefore, the propriety demands that he should also be granted bail,” the court concluded.

The NAB said the federal government’s Financial Monitoring Unit forwarded as a suspicious transaction report and a currency transaction report to the chairman NAB regarding various suspicious transactions of huge amounts in the account of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills, co-accused Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, Yousaf Abbas and other employees/relatives and the co-accused.

Yousaf Abbas was accused of aiding and abetting with the co-accused through illegal means, without disclosing the source/origin of the obtained funds worth $4.8 million. In addition, he aided and abetted in obtaining another amount of Rs 230 million from the UAE in the form of foreign payments for the ultimate benefit of his co-accused persons without disclosing the source.