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Thursday Mar 08 2018

Court rejects Wajid Zia's plea to make entire JIT report part of Avenfield case


ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing the Avenfield properties reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family rejected on Thursday a request to make the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report part of the case record. 

The request was made by Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia, who headed the JIT, after he appeared in court today to record his statement.  

As Judge Mohammad Bashir began proceedings of the Avenfield case earlier today, Nawaz and Maryam asked to be exempted from appearance owing to the former premier's ill health. Accepting their request, the court, however, directed Nawaz's son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar to remain present in court.

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. 

The hearing was briefly adjourned at the outset owing to Zia's absence. 

As Zia appeared in court with the 10-volume JIT report, he narrated the work of the JIT, which had recorded the statements of the Nawaz family and several other persons associated with the Panama Papers case. 

Maryam and Safdar's counsel, Amjad Pervez, then began cross-examining Zia.

Pervez contended that the JIT's observations in its report, made after each volume, cannot be made part of the case. 

The judge agreed and ordered Zia to record his statement with regards to the JIT report material related to the Avenfield case, to which Zia expressed his inability. 

The hearing was then adjourned until March 15, when Zia will continue recording his statement. 

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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