The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday obtained 14-day physical remand of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case.
The court ordered the accountability bureau to present Nawaz on October 25.
Sharif had been arrested earlier in the day by NAB from Kot Lakhpat jail and presented before an accountability court in Lahore.
Members of the Sharif family are accused of being involved in money laundering under the garb of sale/purchase of Chaudhry Sugar Mills Ltd shares.
NAB has accused Nawaz of being a direct beneficiary of CSM and his daughter, Maryam — who was arrested in connection with the case in August along with her cousin Yousuf Abbas — of holding over 12 million shares in the sugar mills.
A source had earlier revealed that in January 2018, the then PML-N government’s financial monitoring unit had reported to NAB a large suspicious transaction involving billions of rupees in Chaudhry Sugar Mills.
The CSM reference is the latest in a series of court cases involving the former prime minister. The saga began with his ouster from office in 2017 through the Panama Papers verdict to his convictions in two subsequent corruption references involving the Al Azizia Steel Mills and the Avenfield Apartments.
A NAB team, after taking the former premier into custody today from Kot Lakhpat jail — where he has been serving a seven-year sentence after being found guilty in the Al Azizia reference — brought him to an accountability court in Lahore to secure a 15-day physical remand.
Judge Chaudhry Ameer Muhammad Khan questioned where Nawaz was, after which he appeared on the rostrum.
During proceedings, which were disrupted by party workers attempting to take pictures with the former premier, NAB prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan alleged that in 2016, Nawaz had been the largest shareholder in CSM and had retained his shareholding in Chaudhry Sugar Mills as well as in Shamim Sugar Mills.
The NAB prosecutor had further alleged that Maryam, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and other Sharif family members had also been shareholders in CSM.
He had stated that CSM’s bank accounts had received foreign funds, adding that in 1992 one foreign company alone had provided Nawaz with Rs55.5 million. Awan said that they still do not know who the owner of this foreign company is.
After the NAB prosecutor concluded his statements, Nawaz’s counsel, Advocate Amjad Pervez, denied that his client had ever been a shareholder or director in CSM.
“This is not the first time that Nawaz Sharif’s assets are under scrutiny,” he said, adding that opposing governments had previously also investigated the formation of the companies, but nothing was found.
He further said Nawaz had no role in the formation of CSM.
According to Pervez, all of Nawaz’s children had instead been directors and shareholders in the sugar mill. “For 30 years, Nawaz has declared his assets,” he said.
Pervez said that a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had already investigated all the issues, after which NAB had filed a reference in Islamabad.
“There is no justification for another investigation; this is a fake case,” he said.
He also argued that there was no need for the court to give NAB physical remand of the former premier and alleged that his client had been wrongfully arrested.
“NAB’s dishonesty in the case is evident and this is just one more case being formed on political grounds,” said Pervez.
He also described NAB’s “disclosures” in the CSM case as “baseless”.
Nawaz’s noted that said his client was already in prison and if NAB had wanted to conduct an investigation, they could have simply visited him in his cell.
“Nawaz Sharif is serving his sentence after a trial and his arrest is not as per the law. Nawaz should not be handed over to the agency on physical remand for even an hour,” he argued.
He had further pleaded that Nawaz be discharged in the CSM case.
Nawaz’s statement in court
In his statement before the court, the former premier said NAB officials had visited him only once in jail and he had answered all questions he could, adding that he had not shared information which he did not have knowledge of.
Nawaz said that he had requested to meet his lawyer and alleged that he was not permitted to do so.
“The allegations being made against me are fake. NAB is conducting an investigation on declared assets,” he said.
He said that NAB officials had come and stated the grounds for the arrest.
“The allegations that have been made are baseless. Our name was in 32 industries, tell us where there was corruption.”
Nawaz said that he had been a minister as well as the prime minister three times and said that if corruption was proven during these time periods he would withdraw not just from the case, but from politics.