FIA’s plea to add JIT report to case record turned down

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

The request was made by FIA additional director Wajid Zia, who was heading the JIT. As Judge Mohammad Bashir began proceedings on Thursday, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz asked to be exempted from appearance owing to the former premier’s health condition. Accepting their request, the court, however, directed Nawaz’s son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar to remain present in the court.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed three interim 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 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 only in the Avenfield reference.

Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2018.