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Tuesday May 08 2018

Verdict on all three references against Sharifs will come together: judge


ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) corruption references against former premier Nawaz Sharif and his family observed today that it would give a verdict on all three cases together. 

The observation came as the court resumed hearing the Avenfield properties reference after the last prosecution witness concluded his testimony yesterday.

Nawaz, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar had been granted exemption from appearing in court today. 

As the hearing went under way, the prosecution asked for a short recess as NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi was not present in court since he was consulting the prosecutor general on their stance.

When the hearing resumed, the prosecution pleaded the court to record the statements of the accused but the defence counsel opposed the plea.

Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris argued that the statements of Wajid Zia, who headed the Panama case joint investigation team, should be recorded in the other two references.

Haris pleaded the court to accept his request, saying will the judge do what NAB says only.

The court agreed with the arguments and rejected the prosecution’s plea.

During the hearing, Haris stated that the Supreme Court should give three more months for the completion of trial. 

Maryam’s counsel also chipped in, arguing that the basis of a transparent trial is that both sides be given equal time to present their case, explaining that the prosecution spent eight months on 18 witnesses. 

The judge responded that it is up to the apex court to decide the timeframe of the next deadline.

Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir then remarked that the decisions on all three references against the accused will be given together.

Last prosecution witness 

On Monday, NAB investigation officer Imran Dogar, the last prosecution witness, was cross-examined by Maryam's counsel Amjad Pervez.

During his cross-examination, Dogar informed the court of NAB's procedure of inquiries and investigations, as well as lodging of references in court.

Dogar stated that he had no role in the work of the Panama Papers case Joint Investigation Team.

As the hearing concluded, the prosecutor said he will give a statement in court tomorrow on the conclusion of arguments and presentation of evidence.

Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the accountability court after the NAB filed references against them in light of the Supreme Court's verdict in the Panama Papers case.

The cases

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017 with a six-month deadline.

The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, 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 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. 

NAB had earlier filed interim references in all three cases and later added supplementary references to them with new evidence and witnesses. 

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