FeaturedNationalVOLUME 14 ISSUE # 25

NAB’s widening radar

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President and daughter of disgraced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, has been arrested after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had found fresh evidence of corruption against her. New documents suggest life will become even more difficult for the Sharif family.

 

The opposition, as usual, termed it political victimization by the government. Yousaf Abbas Sharif, nephew of Nawaz Sharif, was also arrested in the same case. The NAB had issued summons for Maryam Nawaz and her brothers, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, for corrupt and fraudulent practices in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. She appeared twice before the investigators, but failed to satisfy them. Nawaz Sharif’s another nephew, Abdul Aziz, was also questioned. They are share holders in the mills and are accused of laundering money and possessing assets beyond known sources of their income. Almost all Sharif family members are accused in the case. They include Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Yousuf Abbas, Abdul Aziz Abbas and others.

 

Maryam’s arrest comes at a time when the NAB has found fresh evidence of several telegraphic transfers (TTs) from the Hill Metal Establishment (HME), a steel mill in Saudi Arabia, to her account. According to the evidence, over 85pc of the declared profit of the Hill Metal Establishment went to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, of which a share was “gifted” to his daughter, Maryam. Nawaz and his sons had been accused in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference and he was given a seven-year sentence in the case. The reference pertained to the Sharifs being unable to justify the source of funds provided to set up the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment (HME) in Saudi Arabia.

 

An important factor, which remained unexplored in the reference, was that payments were made to Maryam by HME. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT), set up on the order of the Supreme Court in the Panama case, had identified some payments made to Maryam, but their details could not be available earlier. The fresh evidence includes the Form R, in which the beneficiary takes ownership that the money being transferred is in their knowledge and is coming for a specified purpose. It includes a TT of Rs14 million to Maryam’s MCB account in 2008, in which the purpose specified was “investment,” another TT for Rs19 million and one more in 2016 of Rs9.9 million from HME to her Habib Bank account in the bank’s Jati Umrah Sharif Education City branch. The evidence against the owners of the sugar mills came to the fore during an investigation against Shahbaz Sharif and his sons, Hamza and Salman, in money laundering and income beyond means cases.

 

An Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) team is also interrogating former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Kot Lakhpat jail in the Pakpattan shrine land illegal allotment case. According to the case, Nawaz, as the Punjab chief minister, had allegedly allotted property attached to the shrine of Baba Fariduddin Ganj Shakar in Pakpattan, illegally. The NAB has also launched a money-laundering probe against former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. It claims it has found concrete evidence against Dar about his alleged involvement in money laundering. The NAB has already seized Rs500 million from different accounts of Ishaq Dar and his palatial house in Model Town, Lahore.

 

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability, Shahzad Akbar has once against dared PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif to sue him and the Daily Mail over a story exposing his family’s alleged embezzlement in foreign aid given by the United Kingdom for 2005 earthquake victims. “Shahbaz Sharif has lodged mere a complaint to the newspaper instead of filing a lawsuit,” he told a press conference.

 

In a related development, the NAB claims to have unearthed assets worth more than Rs500b belonging to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senior leader Khursheed Shah. The accountability watchdog has acquired documents, which show assets of more than Rs500b belonging to the PPP leader registered in the name of his alleged frontmen. “Shah has opened 105 banks accounts in his and family members’ names in Karachi, Sukkur and other cities,” a NAB official said. The properties were made in Sukkur, Rohri and Karachi, according to the documents, which also reveal that Glamour Bungalow, Junejo Flour Mills, Mukesh Flour Mills and 83 other properties were made in the name of Shah’s frontman, Pehlaj Rai. Moreover, 11 properties are registered in the name of another frontman, Lado Mall, and 10 properties in the name of Hussain Soomro.

 

A recovery of Rs2.12b from a suspect in the fake bank accounts case as part of a plea bargain is also being seen as a “breakthrough” after an accountability court approved it between suspects linked to the Sindh Nooriabad Power project company and the NAB. The fake bank accounts case involves alleged money laundering worth billions of rupees through 29 accounts, which were opened in three banks — Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Ltd. The Federal Investigation Agency has named PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari, his sibling Faryal Talpur, Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed, his sons and over 10 others as suspects in an interim charge-sheet filed in a banking court. The case was transferred from the banking court in Karachi to the accountability court of Rawalpindi for trial in March this year.

 

According to NAB, it has so far recovered a record Rs326b from corrupt elements and deposited the amount into the national exchequer. It expects a recovery of around Rs9-10 billion in few weeks. It is a fact that NAB’s performance has markedly improved in the PTI government, which allows critics to easily blame a nexus between the two to target the opposition. It will have to take concrete measures to dispel the impression.

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