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Avenfield case: Nawaz’s counsel seeks clarity on what Wajid Zia can say in court | Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif submitted a request in the accountability court today seeking clarity on what all can be submitted by the former Panama case probe team head Wajid Zia in the Avenfield properties case. 

The request was made as the court resumed hearing the Avenfield properties reference against Nawaz, daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar. 

During today’s hearing, Zia, a serving additional director of the Federal Investigation Agency who headed the joint investigation team (JIT) which probed the Sharif family’s assets last year on the Supreme Court’s orders, resumed recording his statement and submitted several documents that are part of the JIT report. 

Nawaz’s counsel objected to several of the documents submitted by Zia and sought clarity on what all Zia can present in court. The prosecution opposed the plea. The judge is expected to announce a decision on the plea tomorrow. 

As the hearing went under way today, Zia submitted the Iqama  [foreign work permit] regarding Nawaz’s employment in Capital FZE, a UAE-based company owned by his son, which led to his disqualification as prime minister last year. 

Zia submitted several other documents, including Nawaz’s employment contract as well as the Jabal Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) certificate for the company. 

Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez objected to the submission of the documents, saying they cannot be made part of the case per law as they have not been certified by the Pakistani consulate in UAE or a notary public. 

Pervez questioned how it would be proved that the JIT acquired these documents from Jafza.

The court made the documents part of the case along with the counsel’s objections. 

The hearing was then adjourned until March 22, when Zia will appear for the first time to record his statement in the other two references against Nawaz.   

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed three interim corruption references against the Sharif family in September last year in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case. The bureau recently filed supplementary references in all three cases as well.

Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar arrived in court when the hearing began but left after a few hours when the judge permitted them to do so. 

At the last hearing on March 16, Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez and Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris questioned the legality of the evidence being presented by Zia and objected that they are copies of photocopies and unverified documents.

At an earlier hearing, the judge had also partially approved the plea by Maryam’s counsel to not make the entire JIT report part of the court record, as Zia had contended. 

The former JIT head has been recording his statement in the case since the last three hearings. He has also submitted in court several key documents that the JIT acquired during its probe into the Sharif family’s assets. 

The cases

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017.

The corruption references, filed against the Sharif family, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.

Nawaz and sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar are accused in the Avenfield reference only.

The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court. 

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