Thursday Oct 19, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar were indicted in the Avenfield properties case on Thursday.
The accountability court hearing corruption cases against the Sharif family indicted the three accused after dismissing their separate pleas to suspend proceedings and halt their indictment.
Nawaz, through his representative Zafir Khan, Maryam and Safdar rejected the charges by pleading 'not guilty' and vowed to contest the case.
The charges state that the 2006 trust deed of the London properties is fake as it used the Calibri font before it was made publicly available while the accused also submitted bogus documents in the Supreme Court.
Later, as the court resumed hearing the case, Nawaz was indicted in the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment reference against him.
Nawaz's representative rejected the charges and vowed to contest the case.
However, the former premier could not be indicted in the Flagship Investment Limited reference. The hearing was then adjourned until tomorrow (Friday) for the purpose.
The court also adjourned the hearing of the Avenfield properties and Azizia Steel Mills references until October 26 and directed the prosecution to produce its first witness — Jamshed Ahmed — at the next hearing.
Earlier, during the hearing of references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court's July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case, Nawaz's counsel, Ayesha Hamid, pleaded the court to suspend proceedings until the Supreme Court decides on her client's plea regarding the re-filing of references.
Similarly, Maryam and MNA Capt (retd) Safdar's counsel, Amjad Pervez, argued before Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir that his clients were not provided with the complete documents of the case and thus the indictment process should be halted.
However, the judge dismissed both pleas after which Nawaz filed another plea requesting the court to combine the three references but that too was dismissed.
Maryam reached the Federal Judicial Complex from the Islamabad airport where she landed early morning from Lahore on a special plane.
Later, Safdar separately reached the court complex.
Speaking to the media while entering the court, Safdar said Nawaz will appear before the court [when the time comes].
Senior government officials, including ministers, are present at the court premises, where strict security arrangements are in place to avoid any untoward incident.
A number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders and workers were also present today outside the court complex. They also protested after police did not allow them to enter the premises.
Moreover, Zafir Khan, who was nominated by the former premier's legal team as the "pleader" — the person who will stand for Nawaz in court during his indictment — is also present in the hearing.
However, Nawaz's lead counsel, Khawaja Harris, is not present in court and is being represented by Hamid.
As the hearing went under way, Pervez, who represents the Sharif children, pleaded that his clients not be indicted until they are provided complete documents of the case.
Pervez argued that his clients have also not been provided Volume X of Panama case JIT report.
However, the NAB prosecutor opposed the plea, after which the judge went into a recess. He is expected to decide on the plea later today.
As the hearing resumed, Nawaz's counsel, Hamid, pleaded that until the Supreme Court decides on Nawaz’s plea for NAB to re-file a single corruption reference instead of three separate ones, the proceedings of the accountability court be suspended.
The judge then reserved his decision on Hamid's plea as well. Giving his ruling later, the judge dismissed both pleas of the Sharif family.
Later, Nawaz's counsel filed another plea in the court requesting it to combine the three references against him rather than indicting him separately in each.
The counsel contended that even the witnesses in the three references are common.
The NAB team then requested the court for a short break to ponder the request, which was granted by the judge.
The court then reserved its judgment on Nawaz's plea and went into a short recess after which it dismissed the plea and indicted Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference, also known as the London flats case.
Maryam, Safdar and Zafir Khan — Nawaz's representative — pleaded not guilty to the charges and vowed to contest them in court.
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and one against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court's orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.
The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court's order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.
The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties and over dozen offshore companies owned by the family.
Maryam and Safdar are only nominated in the London properties reference. At an earlier hearing, the court also approved Maryam and Safdar's bail in the Avenfiled properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.
Safdar was also directed to take the court's permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and Safdar.
NAB's Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.
Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family's Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.