HUDAIBIYA MILLS CASE:
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 judges 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. NAB had controversially 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.
A three-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justices Qazi Faez Isa and Mazhar Alam Miankhel, on Friday unanimously rejected an appeal of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills scam, citing the bureau’s prolonged delay in challenging the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict and its inability to satisfy the court on why the case should be reopened.
The Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, involving money laundering charges against the Sharif family, was initiated by NAB in 2000 but quashed by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in 2014. The NAB had appealed the LHC decision in the SC. The NAB lawyer made yet another attempt to convince the SC to allow reopening the Hudaibya Paper Mills reference for the “sake of justice”.
The bench ─ seeking new evidence ─ had asked the bureau not to ‘parrot’ the Panama Papers judgement and rather articulate its own reasons to convince the bench why the reference originally filed against the Sharifs in the year 2000 should be resurrected.
“You have to satisfy the court on the reasons for the delay in filing the appeal,” Justice Alam had told NAB’s lawyer as Friday’s hearing began. The lawyer had told the court that there are lacunae in the high court’s decision and the appeal must be reopened for the sake of justice.
Justice Isa told the lawyer that the document on which the bureau has premised its case ─ the confession of former finance minister Ishaq Dar ─ has not been attached to the appeal for the reopening of the case. “If we remove Dar’s statement, he will become an accused in the case, not a witness,” Justice Alam had observed, addressing the lawyer. “You have not named him as a party in the appeal.”
As the bench inquired when the charges against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif were framed, the lawyer responded that charges could not be framed as the accused was not in the country at the time. “The case went on for years and no charges were framed,” Justice Isa had remarked.
The court had asked the lawyer to submit before the bench the orders from the last hearing of the case at the accountability court. The lawyer had told the bench that due to the stay order issued by the Lahore High Court, the accountability court’s proceedings were halted.
Justice Miankhel had noted that no stay order was attached to the appeal filed before the apex court. “This is all very interesting,” Justice Isa had remarked. “The reference was filed when former president Pervez Musharraf was in power. The NAB chairman was appointed by him. The case was filed two years later when the chairman gave his signature. NAB filed the reference and forgot about it.”
Retired Justice Shah Khawar, who was appointed as the bureau’s special prosecutor on Tuesday was present during Friday’s hearing and told the court that until the appointment of a prosecutor general, he will be supervising the proceedings of the Hudaibya case. “We have looked at all the merits of the case,” Justice Isa had remarked, reserving the court’s decision on the appeal.
‘SC HAS ENDORSED OUR STANCE’:
Commenting on the SC verdict, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the verdict “has endorsed our stance based on truth and justice”. “This judgement is a victory for justice and truth and I bow my head before Almighty Allah in gratitude,” Shehbaz said in a statement. The Punjab CM added that he is thankful to the SC whose decision has upheld truth and justice and it has been transpired that truth always emerged and justice has prevailed.
“Today is the most important day of my political life and the allegations hurdled on me have proved false and baseless as a result of SCP verdict. The time has come that all the political parties and their workers should set aside the traditional politics of weakening each other and utilise their energies for national development and changing lives of the disfranchised segments of the society,” he said.