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Nawaz Sharif given benefit of doubt in Flagship corruption reference

01 January, 2019

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According to the detailed judgement, possibility of Nawaz being the real beneficial owner of Flagship Investment ‘cannot be ruled out’

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was given the “benefit of doubt” in the Flagship Investments corruption reference over lack of evidence, it emerged on Monday after the detailed verdict was issued by an accountability court.

On December 24, Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik announced in the court that “he didn’t find anything against Nawaz Sharif in reference No 18 [Flagship Investment] and the accused is acquitted in this case”.

The detailed judgment in the Flagship reference, penned by Justice Malik, said that the possibility of Sharif being the real beneficial owner of Flagship Investments Ltd “cannot be ruled out”.

The court cited a 2015 judgement and reiterated that for the charged person to be saddled with liability, the prosecution has to establish its case “beyond all reasonable doubts”.

The judge further said that “based on available evidence, it is inclined to extend the benefit of the doubt” to the PML-N leader.

The judge, however, noted that the co-accused, Nawaz’s sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, “have already been declared proclaimed offenders” and ordered that their “perpetual non-bailable” arrest warrants be issued.

Furthermore, Judge Malik stated that the possibility of Nawaz having supplied Hassan with funds to the tune of £705,071 from his “undeclared, secret wealth and assets held outside Pakistan cannot be ruled out completely” but noted that “there is insufficient evidence to safely reach the conclusion”.

The detailed verdict has been released exactly a week after the acquittal. While the verdict in case of a conviction is handed over to the accused at the time of its pronouncement, the judgement in case of acquittal is provided to him/her on request.

The prosecuting agency, NAB, has already decided that it will file an appeal against the judgement in the Flagship reference. The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by the NAB chairman soon after the verdict’s announcement in the court. Under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), an appeal against the verdict of the accountability court may be filed within 10 days of receipt of a written order of the court.

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