ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Monday allowed a three-day exemption to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam in the Avenfield reference against the Sharif family.
The Avenfield reference, pertaining to the Sharif family’s London properties, is among three references filed against the Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last year on the Supreme Court’s directives in the Panama Papers case.
As the hearing went under way, accountability court Judge Muhammad Bashir observed that none of the accused were in court.
Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris informed the court that Captain (retd) Safdar would appear in court shortly. He further said that Nawaz and his daughter Maryam were both abroad. A request in that regard will be filed after Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s June 22 medical report is printed, said Haris.
Captain (retd) Safdar then arrived in the courtroom.
Haris began presenting his arguments, stating that he would respond to the second part of the statement of NAB’s star witness Wajid Zia.
Nawaz’s lawyer contended that the report prepared by the Joint Investigation Team constituted to probe the Panama Papers case was unacceptable as evidence in the Avenfield case.
The defence lawyer argued that a summary of documents not presented by his client could not be used against him. Haris said that the investigation officer’s opinion could not be considered as acceptable evidence.
Discussing the letters sent to the JIT by the Qatari prince in response to the former’s queries, Nawaz’s lawyer asserted that the letters had nothing to with his client. He further stated that the JIT had mentioned contradictions in the two letters. “It was the court, not JIT’s job to discuss the contradictions,” he said.
Haris argued that the investigation officer was under influence because of giving his opinion. “Wajid Zia could have presented the letters, but he should not have commented on them,” Nawaz’s lawyer told the court, adding that Nawaz was mentioned in one page 28 of the JIT head’s statement.
The defence lawyer further said that Zia had stated that Nawaz, Maryam, Hussain, and Tariq Shafi — the former premier’s cousin — had not submitted any documents regarding the payment of the property.
“Nawaz was indicted because of the JIT,” said Haris, adding that a direct link to his client in the reference had not been established.
Zia only read the summary of documents and then commented on it in his entire statement, Nawaz’s lawyer told the court. “Zia said that [the JIT] had examined the evidence, but was it the JIT’s job to do so? Or is it the court which is responsible for examining the evidence?”
Haris then filed a seven-day exemption on behalf of Nawaz and Maryam. However, Judge Bashir only approved a three-day exemption from appearing in court.
NAB’s Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi observed that the medical report of Begum Kulsoom, which was presented in court, was not signed by a doctor. He further added that only a doctor could comment on Begum Kulsoom’s ailment.
The hearing is under way.
In the last hearing on June 23, Haris in his concluding arguments said the prosecution had to prove the ownership of the London flats in the case. He reiterated that his client was neither the beneficial owner of the London apartments nor had anything to do with the properties.
Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the accountability court after National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed references against them in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case.
The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017.
The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Limited, 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 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.
The court originally had a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge requested the apex court.
Later, the deadline was extended twice more, with the new date falling at July 10 now.