–Advocate Haris says former PM had ‘honourary’ position in FZE Capital and never received salary
–Nawaz says ‘not a penny of corruption’ proven against him
–Court set to announce joint verdict after almost seven extensions in deadlines
ISLAMABAD: The accountability court seized with the Al-Azizia and Flagship references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif decided to announce the joint verdict on Monday after the conclusion of final arguments by the defence counsel.
The Supreme Court (SC) earlier this month extended the original six-month deadline for the seventh time, while directing the trial court to wrap up the remaining two references and announce the verdict on December 24, Monday.
During the hearing, defence counsel Khawaja Haris said his client Nawaz Sharif never accepted the allegation of receiving salary from Capital FZE Company.
The purpose of employment in the company was just to use it for UAE visa (iqama), he said, adding that Nawaz only had an “honourary position” in the company. The apex court had declared this “non-receiving salary” as an asset, he maintained.
At this, the judge said even if the court accepted the defence’s stance on the company’s employment, what was the connection with the graft reference.
The defence lawyer requested the court to grant some time to present more documents in favour of his client that was turned down by the judge after the prosecution objected to it. The judge told the counsels to submit any documents they deemed relevant by Friday.
During the hearing, NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzzafar Abbasi pleaded before the trial court that the accused had submitted some documents in his favour which mean that he had also other relevant material that also could be presented.
‘I AM NOT CORRUPT’:
Speaking to reporters outside the judicial complex, the deposed prime minister claimed that “not a penny of corruption was proven” against him.
Terming the entire experience of court hearings “very painful”, the ex-PM said he had appeared before the court 78 times in this [Al-Azizia] case while he had appeared 87 times in the previous one [Avenfield].”
“I have been serving the people for 35 years. I have been the chief minister twice and the prime minister thrice. I am very happy that I have done my duty, and I think that since I have stepped in politics I have never indulged in corruption nor have I ever misused my powers,” he told reporters.
Nawaz thanked the media for responsible reporting on the cases against him and “conveying the facts to the nation”.
After Nawaz was named in Panama Papers in 2016, the SC had formed a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the former PM. On the basis of the JIT report, Nawaz was disqualified from being a member of parliament in July 2017.
The top court had also directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file references against the Sharif family and decided the case within six months.
One of the three references, Avenfield, implicated Nawaz, daughter Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar, while the other two references, Flagship and Al-Azizia, concerned Nawaz and his sons Hasan and Husain Nawaz.
The two brothers residing in London have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.
The Supreme Court had initially set a six-month deadline to conclude the four corruption references against the Sharif family. The trial against the Sharif family commenced on September 14, 2017.
On July 6, after four extensions in the original six-month deadline to conclude all three cases, the court had announced its verdict in the Avenfield reference.
Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar were sentenced to 10, seven and one year of imprisonment, respectively, in absentia by Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir. They, however, were released on bail by the Islamabad High Court after a few months.
Following the conviction, Nawaz, through his counsel filed a petition in the IHC that sought transfer of cases to another court, pleading “since the evidence and the arguments in all three references were similar, the outcome may be the same if the same judge heard the case”.
Subsequently, Judge Bashir recused and the cases were transferred to the court of AC Judge Muhammad Arshad. Unlike Avenfield reference, the court had also announced to give a joint verdict in remaining two corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.