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Thursday Mar 29 2018
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Panamagate JIT couldn't agree on sending questionnaire to Qatari prince: Wajid Zia

Nawaz Sharif arrives at the court today. Photo: Geo News 

ISLAMABAD: Wajid Zia, head of the Panamagate joint investigation team (JIT), on Thursday said the members of the probe team could not agree on sending a questionnaire to the Qatari prince.

Zia said so during hearing of Avenfield properties references — one of three filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court's Panama Papers case judgment last year against former premier Nawaz Sharif and his family — by an accountability court on Thursday.

Nawaz's counsel, Khawaja Haris, resumed cross-examination of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director Wajid Zia, who headed the probe into the Sharif family's assets during the Panama Papers case.

Nawaz, daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar have been indicted in the Avenfield reference. They were all present in court today.

Zia was questioned on the two letters from Qatar's royal family member and Sharif family associate Prince Hammad Bin Jassim. The additional director FIA said the first letter was written to Prince Hamad bin Jasim on May 13, 2017.

"You asked Prince Jassim to attend the JIT meeting in that letter? he was also asked to verify his two previous letters written to the Supreme Court?" Haris asked.

Zia replied: "Yes, I did so. But I had also asked to submit further record and additional documents in that letter."

Haris questioned if had asked to bring related record after having read both letters by the Qatari prince. To which, Zia replied that he had not just asked for it on the basis of the letters, but requested to bring all additional documents.

With regard to sending a questionnaire to the Qatari prince, Zia said the JIT members could not agree on this matter. "It was an important matter and after not having reached a consensus on it, a letter was written to the Supreme Court Panama case implementation bench."

He said that they told by the SC registrar that this was an important matter and the JIT should decide on the matter itself. "The JIT, in its letter, did not write that the Supreme Court is being informed for the members could not reach a consensus."

Zia said that Prince Jassim had informed that he could not come to Pakistan and had suggested for the JIT members to come to Doha. "Prince Jassim asked for sending the questionnaire, but the JIT could not agree on it. Later it was decided that the questionnaire would be sent now."

Nawaz's counsel questioned Zia if could tell any law that forbids sending the questionnaire to a witness.

At this, Zia said he would not comment on the law. "I can only tell you about my experience that I have never sent a questionnaire to anyone."

Nawaz's counsel Khawaja Harris said that on June 22, 2017 the JIT wrote a letter with strict restrictions to Prince Hammad Bin Jassim. "The JIT deliberately included harsh restrictions compelling Prince Hammad Bin Jassim to avoid appearing before them," the counsel said. 

Nawaz leaves the court. Photo: Geo News

Further delving into details regarding the content of the letter, the former premier's counsel said, "The letter stated that investigations in Qatar will only he held at the Pakistan High Commission."

Raising this point, he alleged that this condition was placed as foreign countries view another country's high commission as its territory and questioned why the Qatari prince could not be questioned in his residence or office. 

To this, Wajid Zia said the protocol is to record statements in Pakistani high commissions located in the country.  

However, Nawaz's counsel raised more questions regarding the content of the letter. He also said the JIT 'intimidated' the Qatari prince and told him the investigation would go on for hours. To this, Wajid Zia said, "We did not intimidate him, we informed him."

Further, Wajid Zia admitted that "it's true that Hussain Nawaz's picture during his appearance before the JIT was leaked and went viral on social media."

Zia added that an inquiry was conducted into the matter of the photo leak, however, he cannot reveal who was found guilty during the investigation.

"We shared the name with the attorney general of Pakistan and left it to him to decide whether he wants to share the name of the person responsible for the picture leak or not," he upheld. 

Later, the court allowed Nawaz and family to leave the proceedings. 

The hearing was later adjourned till Friday. 

During yesterday's proceedings, Haris questioned Zia if there were any documents which proved that Nawaz currently is, or ever was, the beneficial owner of Avenfield properties. To this, Zia replied: "We don't have documents to show that Nawaz was the beneficial owner."

On Tuesday, Zia, finished recording his statement in the case.

At that hearing, Zia informed the court that Nawaz's elder son Hussain owned the Avenfield flats from 1993 to 1996.

When Maryam's counsel Amjad Pervez objected to the claim, Zia said Hussain had informed the JIT of the same so the fact cannot be disputed. Zia also asserted that the signed documents submitted to the JIT by Nawaz's children were bogus.

The cases

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

Wajid Zia completes recording statement in Avenfield reference against Sharifs

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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