ISLAMABAD: Sharif family got a big relief as a three-member Supreme Court bench on Friday dismissed National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s appeal to reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.
The bench was headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprised Justices Qazi Faez Isa and Mazhar Alam Miankhel.
Hearing the case since November 28, the court announced its judgment today in a majority decision.
The one-line order, read out by Justice Alam, states that NAB’s appeal to reopen the case is dismissed and a detailed verdict will be issued later.
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 Supreme Court.
As the hearing began, NAB counsel Imranul Haq stated that the LHC decision has flaws and sought the reopening of the Hudaibiya case so that legal responsibilities are fulfilled.
He further informed the bench that Senator Ishaq Dar, on whose ‘confession’ NAB initiated the reference in 2000, submitted an apology in court.
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’shearing began.
The lawyer had told the court that there are holes in the high court’s decision and the appeal must be reopened for the sake of justice.
Justice Isa remarked that the statement on which the case is based has not been attached to the documents by NAB.
Similarly, Justice Alam observed that if Dar’s statement is taken out of the case, then his status will be that of an accused, adding that he [Dar] has not been made a respondent in the case.
“We are hearing the Hudaibiya appeal and not the Hudaibiya reference,” observed Justice Alam, and directed NAB to satisfy the court on its delay in filing the appeal.
Justice Isa observed that the case went on for years and the charges were not framed.
The NAB counsel also informed the bench regarding the procedure of its chairman’s appointment as well.
The NAB counsel then wrapped up his arguments and asked the court to issue notices to the respondents and allow reinvestigation of the case by quashing the LHC decision.
The court then went into a recess and announced its decision after a short while. Moreover, during the hearing, Justice Isa remarked that despite the court’s order barring media analysis on the case, a private news channel brought a person on TV and attempted to influence the case.
The 2000 Hudaibya 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 judge 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. INP