Pakistan News

Al-Azizia reference: Nawaz completes recording statement, court seeks final arguments

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Thursday sought final arguments from respondents in the Al-Azizia corruption reference as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif completed recording his statement under the Criminal Procedure Code.

 

Accountability Court Judge Arshad Malik heard the Al-Azizia reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the former premier.

 

During today’s hearing, the former premier while recording his statement said, “I am not going to present my defense in the Al-Azizia Steel Mill reference. This case was formed against me on the basis of allegations levelled by my political opponents and a one-sided report of the joint investigation team (JIT).”

 

The former premier added, “The JIT report incorrectly showed me as the owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mill and Hill Metal Establishment and even the Supreme Court bench was not fully satisfied with the report. The top court sent the matter to the trial court so there are no doubts.”

 

Judge Malik then asked Nawaz, “Why was this case was formed and why did witnesses record statements against you?”

 

In response, the former premier said, “This case was run on the basis of assumptions. This case was started on allegations of money laundering, tax theft and corruption and after strict accountability it was turned into a case of owing assets beyond known sources of income.”

 

“Except for JIT head Wajid Zia and the investigation officer, no other witness gave statements against me. Their statements are not acceptable testimonies, however, they had both accepted that they found no evidence against me,” Nawaz added. “I am satisfied that after scanning through my generations they did not find any evidence of corruption. I made personal and political sacrifices and my 40-year political career is clean and transparent,” he said.

 

Nawaz continued, “I am neither the real owner nor a benamidaar of Al-Azizia Steel Mill or Hill Metal Establishment. The prosecution could not present any evidence against me in this regard,” he added. The former premier continued, “I did not send any money from Pakistan to my sons for foreign education, living or business and whichever countries they are doing business in it is in accordance with the law and no illegal actions were found in their dealings.”

 

“During this accountability process, I sacrificed a lot. I suffered irreplaceable loss during this time but I did not back down,” he asserted.

 

He further said, “NAB did not present any such evidence ascertaining that I established Al-Azizia Steel Mill or Hill Metal Establishment. The prosecution also failed to present evidence proving that I was the guardian of Hasan and Hussain Nawaz and that they were benamidaars. They also failed to prove indictment charges against me,” Nawaz said.

 

Al-Azizia Steel Mill was established by my father in 2001 and Hussain Nawaz was 29 years old at that time, he shared. “Wajid Zia and the investigation officer admitted that there is no document to show that I am the owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mill or Hill Metal Establishment.”

 

The former premier requested that General Yahya’s visit of Ittefaq Foundry be made part of the record and presented a picture. “Those talking about owing assets beyond known sources of income, should look at this picture. I am present in this picture,” he said.

 

The trial

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 announced its verdict in the Avenfield reference.

 

Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, are accused in all three references whereas Maryam and Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only.

 

The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.

 

On July 10, the Supreme Court granted another six-week extension for Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir to conclude the remaining corruption references against Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

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