SC chides NAB over Hudaibiya case reopening

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the National Accountability Bureau to satisfy the court on limitation issue for reopening of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case after three years.

The direction was given by the three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, to NAB which heard the Bureau’s appeal to reopen the Hudaibiya case.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa asked NAB Special Prosecutor General Accountability Imran ul Haq to give them incriminating evidence regarding the sources of revenue.

He remarked that neither the Joint Investigation Team nor the NAB did anything except preparing flowcharts of money transfer.

The court asked the prosecutor to inform it how much money was transferred in the accounts of Hudaibiya Paper Mills and through what ways. It also asked that how the mills used to withdraw money from the accounts of Siddiqua Syed and other persons.

“Show us the cheques and whose signatures were on them. Show us hard evidence in this regard,” Justice Faez said. It was irrelevant whether 100 or 1,000 accounts were opened, he added.

The prosecutor told the court that prima facie there was enough evidence against the Sharif family. Upon that Justice Faez remarked sarcastically, “still the same prima facie evidence”. This means another 50 years were required to prove the crime, he added. Please narrow down the controversy, he told the lawyer.

During the proceedings, Justice Faez repeatedly asked from NAB counsel what the criminal charge against the Sharif family was. He said that the court was dealing with the criminal proceedings and not the civil matter, and the fundamental principle of criminal proceedings is the criminal charge.

Justice Faez said it may actually be the case of income tax evasion or whitening of black money. He said in 2013 the Lahore High Court used the words ‘Sword of Damocles’ to quash the Hudaibiya case and the apex court was using the same words now.

The bench directed the NAB counsel to satisfy the court on the limitation issue to reopen Hudaibiya case. He asked him to give reasons as to why NAB waited for three years to reopen the case.

Imran ul Haq said the JIT in its report had recommended reopening of the case as there were strong and comprehensive documents in its support, and the money trail of Sharif family was allegedly linked with the case. This is the part of the final judgment (July 28) on Panama leaks case that Saeed Ahmed and Javed Kiyani be included in the Panama case, he added.

Justice Mushir Alam observed that reopening of Hudaibiya case was not mentioned anywhere in the Panama judgment. How the properties mentioned in the judgment and the transactions were relevant and connected with the Hudaibiya case, he asked.

NAB prosecutor contended that there was no mention of Hudaibiya Mills but the names of persons were the same. He said reference in Hudaibiya Mills was knocked down by LHC on technical grounds, adding Ishaq Dar gave statement voluntarily.

The court directed him to figure out money trail prior to the Joint Investigation Team and subsequent investigations and submit additional evidence.

Justice Mushir asked what legal effect of Nawaz Sharif getting pardon from Musharraf and going into exile along with family was on the case.

He asked if a person is pardoned and later on this facility accorded to the accused is withdrawn then would he again become an accused. The law should be applied to everyone, he remarked.

The court inquired about the legality of Ishaq Dar’s statement as the judicial magistrate recorded his statement while at that time, under section 26 of the NAO, it was required to record the statement before NAB chairman or the Accountability Court.

The court noted that Dar’s statement was recorded on April 25, 2000 by the judicial magistrate while the amendment in Section 26 of the NAO 1999 was made on July 5, 2000.

Justice Faez asked whether the NAB was aware of this amendment. The prosecutor told that the statement was recorded under the prevailing provision of the NAB law.

The court questioned whether the NAB had collected information about the fictitious bank accounts. The lawyer said the account holder had appeared before the investigation officer.

He said that he was relying on section 6, 9(a)(v), and 10 of NAO. He said under the NAB law the onus was on the accused to prove his innocence. The case was adjourned until today (Wednesday).

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