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Verdict reserved in NAB references against Nawaz

Verdict reserved in NAB references against Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing Al Azizia and Flagship references against deposed premier Nawaz Sharif reserved its verdict on Wednesday.

The judgement will be announced on December 24.

Defence counsel Khawaja Haris presented a rebuttal to statements made by the prosecution. Sharif’s counsel also petitioned the court for additional time to submit some more documents, the court, however, rejected the request.

In the Al Azizia reference, 22 witnesses recorded their statements, while in the Flagship reference, 16 witnesses recorded their statements. Former premier Nawaz decided not to offer any defence in both cases.

Proceedings in the remaining references continued after members of the Sharif family, Nawaz and daughter Maryam, were released from prison earlier in September.

The Supreme Court (SC) extended the deadline for the eighth time earlier this month. The apex court also instructed the lower court to wrap up proceedings and announce the verdict by December 24.

Throughout the course of the trial, the former premier has defended the accusation of being the real owner and beneficiary of offshore companies, which he claims belong to his sons Hasan and Hussain Nawaz.

Nawaz has maintained that the case against him was initiated on the basis of allegations levelled by his political rivals and the report of a joint investigation team (JIT) in Panama Papers case, which he said was biased.

Nawaz further said that the report had declared him as the “real owner” of Al Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, but he was not the owner nor was he a ‘benamidaar’ of both these businesses. He added NAB could not present any evidence, proving that he had established Al-Azizia or Hill Metal.

Nawaz, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar were released from jail earlier after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended their prison sentences.

The Sharifs had challenged the convictions through appeals and sentences through petitions.

“The instant writ petition is allowed and sentence awarded to the petitioners by the accountability court shall remain suspended till the final adjudication of the appeal filed by the petitioner,” read the judgment. “The petitioner shall be released on bail subject to furnishing bail bonds in the sum of Rs500,000 with one surety in the amount to the satisfaction of deputy registrar of the high court.”

Earlier in July, after almost 10 months of continuous proceedings, an accountability court found former premier Nawaz Sharif and two of his family members guilty in one of the four corruption references filed against them in line with the apex court’s July 28, 2017 order and awarded them ‘rigorous imprisonment’ and heavy financial penalties.

In the verdict on Avenfield Apartments reference announced by Judge Muhammad Bashir, the court sentenced Sharif to 10 years rigorous imprisonment, his daughter Maryam to seven years rigorous imprisonment and son-in-law, Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, to one-year rigorous imprisonment.