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Monday Jun 11 2018

Al-Azizia reference adjourned till June 12 after Nawaz's lawyer withdraws from case

Police personnel stand outside the Federal Judicial Complex in Islamabad. Photo: File 

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court adjourned the hearing of Al-Azizia reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif till June 12 after the defence lawyer recused himself from representing his client in all three corruption references filed by NAB. 

Nawaz and his family members are facing three corruption references in the accountability court — Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments — in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets.

Defence lawyer Khawaja Haris had to continue cross-examining National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) star witness and Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia today. However, he announced the withdrawal of legal services to Nawaz. 

The hearing was then adjourned till June 12. 

Announcing his decision to withdraw his legal services to Nawaz during the hearing of Al-Azizia reference, Haris said the Supreme Court had 'dictated on completing the trial within a month.' 

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on June 10 had directed the accountability court to announce its verdict on all three corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family within a month.

During the hearing, the chief justice rejected Nawaz’s former counsel Haris’ petition for completing the trial in six weeks, observing that final verdict against the former premier, his sons, daughter, and son-in-law should be announced within a month.

Accountability court Judge Muhammad Bashir had adjourned the cross-examination on June 4 and directed the prosecution to submit the final arguments in London flats case by June 5.

Haris had requested the judge to hear the arguments in all three references at once.

"Sixty per cent of the arguments are the same in the three references," Harris said.

"We will file a petition tomorrow against your written order to announce a combined judgement," he added.

Further, during the hearing, Zia, who works as an additional director at the Federal Investigation Agency, remarked that the Share Sale Agreement 1980 of Gulf Steel Mills showed that Nawaz’s cousin Tariq Shafi and Muhammad Hussain were partners.

In an earlier hearing on Friday, Zia had said no evidence was found linking former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to Hill Metal Establishment.

“Neither any witness claimed nor there is any document to show that Nawaz was involved in any way with Hill Metal Establishment,” Zia had said during his cross-examination as Judge Mohammad Bashir presided proceedings in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference.

On Thursday, Zia said he did not come across any document during the investigation which showed that Nawaz is the owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mills.

The cases

Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the Accountability Court-I after the 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 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. 

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