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Tuesday Jan 01 2019

Nawaz Sharif challenges Al-Azizia reference verdict in IHC

A two-member divisional bench of Islamabad High Court will hear the appeal against Nawaz’s conviction - file photo 

ISLAMABAD: Nawaz Sharif has filed an appeal against the verdict of the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference in the Islamabad High Court — a week after an accountability court awarded a seven-year jail term to the former prime minister in the case.

On December 24, 2018, Accountability Court II Judge Arshad Malik had sentenced Nawaz to seven years in prison along with a fine of Rs1.5 billion and US$25 million in the Al-Azizia corruption reference. The former premier is serving his term in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail.

The appeal against Nawaz’s conviction in the reference was filed by his counsel Khawaja Haris.

In the appeal, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz quaid has requested the high court to declare his sentence null and void, and release him on bail.

He has argued that the court's verdict is grounded in an incorrect interpretation of the law. The accountability court which announced the verdict failed to cater to the objections raised by the accused, the appeal states. 

A separate petition has also been filed seeking suspension of Nawaz’s sentence in the reference.

A two-member divisional bench of the Islamabad High Court will hear the appeal against Nawaz’s conviction and sentence.

Al-Azizia reference details 

Hussain Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister’s elder son, claims that he received a sum of $5.4 million from his grandfather to establish the steel conglomerate in Saudi Arabia. The payment was made by a Qatari royal on the request of the elder Sharif. Thereafter, scrap machinery was transported from their Ahli Steel Mills in Dubai to Jeddah to establish Al-Azizia in 2001.

The JIT constituted to investigate the graft allegations insisted that the real owner of the mills was Nawaz Sharif, and it was being operated by his son on his behalf. Hussain was 29-years-old at the time. The JIT also held that Nawaz Sharif received 97 per cent profit as ‘gifts’ from Hill Metals Establishment, another company established by Hussain Nawaz Sharif in 2005, in Saudi Arabia.

Of the amount, Nawaz Sharif transferred 77 percent to his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif. (Maryam is not accused in this reference). Here as well, the NAB claims that since Sharif received a large profit from Hussain’s companies, he is the real owner and not his son. However, during the proceedings the NAB could not substantiate its claim through documentary evidences and instead placed the burden of proof on the accused.

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