–NAB prosecutor tells SC ousted PM pressurized accountability watchdog not to file appeal against LHC decision
–Requests court to ‘scrutinise’ impugned LHC judgement and allow NAB to reopen money laundering reference
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) submitted in the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday that proceedings against the Sharif family in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference were not undertaken earlier as Nawaz Sharif, who was serving as prime minister at the time, had pressurized the Bureau not to appeal the Lahore High Court’s decision in the case.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor Imranul Haq made the statement in response to a question posed on Tuesday by a three-judge bench of the apex court ─ headed by Justice Mushir Alam ─ which is hearing the Hudaibiya Papers Mills reference.
In a fresh appeal submitted to the SC on Wednesday, Haq tried to justify NAB’s failure in pursuing the Hudaibiya reference more vigorously after the Bureau was admonished a day earlier for being ill prepared.
He requested that the court “scrutinise” the three-year-old “impugned judgement” and allow NAB to reopen the reference.
“Denial to reinvestigate [the case] amounts to the denial of justice itself. Justice was castrated [after the LHC’s 2014 decision] and the damage [caused by it] should be undone by this honourable court by condoning the delay in filing of the petition,” the appeal read.
Earlier this year, a joint investigation team, formed to probe corruption charges against the Sharif family in the Panama Papers case — that led to Nawaz’s disqualification — had recommended that the Hudaibiya reference should be reopened after it found incriminating evidence relating to the case.
While NAB had agreed to reopen corruption references against the Sharif family following the SC verdict, it had not approved filing a reference regarding the Hudaibiya Paper Mills, reasoning that the case has already been decided by the LHC.
However, in September the bureau filed an appeal in the SC, asking the apex court to set aside the LHC’s 2014 judgement “in the interest of justice, fair play and equity”.
Naming Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, their deceased brother Abbas Sharif and five other family members as respondents, NAB urged the court to annul the LHC judgement.
In the application, the anti-corruption watchdog has maintained that now when the matter is before the SC, justice requires that the “impugned judgment be scrutinised on the touchstone of precedents” settled by the top court.
“No doubt an accused is the favorite child of law, but keeping in view the shape of scale of justice the complaint is also not devoid of the court’s justice,” said the application.
The plea further stated that the fault, loose control or non-serious working of the judges of the high court should not damage the prosecution case on mere technical ground of limitation. “Denial of reinvestigation amounted to denial of justice itself, hence the justice was castrated, damage should be undone by this honorable court by condoning the delay in filing of petition,” it demanded.
The 2000 Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering reference was initiated on the basis of an April 25, 2000 confession statement from Ishaq Dar, wherein he admitted to his role in laundering money to the tune of $14.86 million on behalf of the Sharifs through fictitious accounts.
The witness was, however, pardoned by the then NAB chairman.
LHC referee judge, Justice Sardar Shamim had quashed the reference on March 11, 2014 on the grounds that if a re-investigation was allowed against the Sharif family, it would provide an opportunity to investigators to pad up lacunas.
The LHC had quashed the case as the PML-N continued to claim that Dar’s statement was taken under duress.
Later, NAB had decided not to challenge the high court’s decision.
While Nawaz was not named in the interim reference filed in March 2000, in the final reference against the Hudaibya Paper Mills — approved by then chairman NAB Khalid Maqbool — the bureau had accused Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Nawaz.