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Friday Jun 22 2018

Avenfield case: Prosecution had to prove London flats' ownership, says Nawaz's counsel

The Federal Judicial Complex where the accountability court is situated. Photo: File 

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's counsel Khawaja Haris, in his concluding arguments in the Avenfield properties case against the Sharif family, Friday said the prosecution had to prove the ownership of the London flats in the case.

The Avenfield reference, pertaining to the Sharif family's London properties, is among three references filed against the Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last year on the Supreme Court's directives in the Panama Papers case.

As the hearing resumed today in the court of Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir, Haris reiterated that his client was neither the beneficial owner of the London apartments nor had anything to do with the properties.

He noted that the prosecution had to establish the ownership of the London properties.

The counsel also questioned what the prosecution's claim of Nawaz having taken a salary from Capital FZE had to do with the Avenfield properties.

He said that there was no document pertaining to receiving of salary, rather screenshots were presented.

Haris said that they reviewed 81 documents presented by the prosecution and they did not have any connection with Nawaz whatsoever.

Speaking of trust deeds between Maryam and Hussain Nawaz, the counsel noted the [Panama case] joint investigation team (JIT) referred to an expert opinion by a foreign firm with regard to those trust deeds.

"The firm, Gilead Cooper, says that it prepared the opinion on the request of Imran Khan Niazi, which too does not have any link with Nawaz Sharif," Haris said in his arguments.

He further said the prosecution has to establish Nawaz's link through evidence, and then the defence would respond to it.

The hearing was then adjourned until Monday.

Haris returns

Haris resumed his role as Nawaz's chief counsel on Tuesday after having recused himself earlier owing to the Supreme Court's new one-month deadline.

On Wednesday, in his arguments, he asserted that Nawaz did not accept ownership of the London properties.

He further said that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. "Here the prosecution has put the burden of the proof on the defence".

"Nawaz's ownership was never proven. If the ownership had been proven only then we could have discussed the supposed difference between income and assets," he added.

Nawaz and Maryam were on Tuesday granted a four-day exemption from appearing in court. The former premier and his daughter are in London to tend to Nawaz's wife Begum Kulsoom who is in a critical condition there.

The cases

Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the accountability court after 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 Limited, 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.

Later, the deadline was extended twice more, with the new date falling at July 10 now.