Thursday Oct 01 2020

Accountability court orders seizure of Nawaz Sharif's property in Toshakhana case

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif speaking to reporters in London. — Photo courtesy PML-N

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Thursday ordered the confiscation of the property owned by former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in the Toshakhana vehicles’ reference after he was declared an absconder.

The property includes a 1,650-kanal agricultural land in Lahore, a Mercedes, a Land Cruiser, two tractors, local and foreign bank accounts, a bungalow in Murree and a 102-kanal land in Sheikhupura .

AC-III Judge Asghar Ali conducted a hearing on the Toshakhana reference, which was moved by National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The reference also names as accused former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

Gilani appeared before the court in today's hearing. However, Asif Ali Zardari, Khawaja Anwar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed filed one-day exemption requests from the hearing which were accepted by the court.

At the outset of hearing, NAB officials produced details pertaining to the assets of Nawaz Sharif, and the court ordered confiscation of the properties.

Meanwhile, Zardari’s lawyer Farooq Hamid Naek conducted a cross examinination of the prosecution witness Imran Zafar, who told the court that he had joined Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in 2010 and was promoted to the post of deputy director in 2018.

To a query, the witness said he had been working as record keeper in ECP, adding that he had provided the details regarding assets of former president Asif Zardari to NAB on the directives of chief election commissioner (CEC).

The lawyer objected that the witness had produced no such order along with case documents. He showed the CEC letter to the judge and said the ECP had not given any such permission.

Deputy Prosecutor General NAB Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi objected over the defense queries and said Naek was trying to pressurise the witness.

The court room witnessed cross-talk among the defense lawyer and NAB prosecutor on the occasion.

To a question, the witness said he had received a letter on February 12, 2019, and then appeared before the NAB investigation officer on the same day.

At this, the lawyer argued that the witness did not present the letter in which the NAB information officer directed him to appear on the same date.

The witness said he had not attested the nomination papers of Asif Zardari but he had verified his assets but the lawyer said his stamp was not there on the documents.

Imran Zafar, the witness, said he had not given any false statement to the court, adding that Zardari never signed any documents in front of him.

The second NAB witness Zubair Sidiqui informed the court during cross-examination that he had been working in the cabinet division as a confidential officer.

Sidiqui said he had appeared three times in the NAB Toshakhana case. He produced copies of documents related to the vehicles in question.

The court ordered the witness to come to the next hearing with original documents.

The hearing of the case was adjourned till October 13.

Toshakhana reference

The NAB reference filed against Zardari and Nawaz accuses them of obtaining cars from Toshakhana (the gift depository) by paying 15% of the price of the cars.

Zardari also received cars as gifts from Libya and the UAE when he was president and used them for his personal use instead of depositing them in the treasury, the anti-graft body has alleged.

Former premier Yousuf Raza Gillani has been accused of facilitating Zardari and Nawaz in this matter. The anti-graft body has accused Gillani of relaxing the procedure for acceptance and disposal of gifts.

Khawaja Anwar Majeed and Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majeed, owners of the Omni Group, are also nominated as accused in the reference.

According to reports, Nawaz was not holding any public office in 2008 but was given a vehicle without any justification. NAB says the leaders have been charged with corruption under sub-sections 2, 4, 7 and 12 of Section 9 (A) of the NAB Ordinance.

A gift from any country to the head of the state and deposited in the Toshakhana remains the property of the government unless sold at an open auction. Rules allow officials to retain gifts with a market value of less than Rs10,000 without paying anything.