Court allows witnesses to testify via video link in Avenfield properties’ reference

NAB requested court to allow statements of two international witnesses to be recorded

Rizwan Shehzad February 02, 2018
Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Friday allowed two witnesses of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to give testimonies via video link in a supplementary reference against Sharif family with regard to their London Avenfield Apartments.

The judge Muhammad Bashir accepted NAB’s application seeking court’s permission to allow the witnesses to give their statements through video link at the Pakistan High Commission in London. He later ordered to make arrangements by installing devices in the court for recording witnesses’ evidence.

The prosecution said both the witnesses – Robert W Radley, the principal at the Radley Forensic Document Laboratory and Akhtar Raja, the principal at the Quist Solicitors – are in the United Kingdom and cannot come to Pakistan due to security reasons and ‘heavy engagements.’

New reference contradicts last one, says Nawaz’s counsel

In his arguments, NAB’s Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said the witnesses are, however, willing to give their statement through video link.

The prosecutor said there was no provision in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1898, or any other law which compels a witness to come to Pakistan and give evidence. In addition, he said, facility of video link was not available and used in the year 1898.

He said authorities will also have to bear heavy expense if the witnesses are summoned to the court, adding that: “there is no reciprocal arrangement between the United Kingdom and Pakistan”. He also read from a Supreme Court judgment about a statement through video link.

Relying on section 503 [when attendance of witness may be dispensed with] of the CrPC, Abbasi said that no prejudice would be caused to accused and witnesses’ testimony was essential for a just decision.

Interestingly, defence counsel Amjad Pervaiz countered NAB prosecutor’s arguments while relying upon the same SC judgment. He informed the court that the SC judgment cited by the prosecutor had concluded that witness’ statement would be recorded through a commission.

On reciprocal arrangement, Pervaiz revealed that “a reciprocal arrangement does exist between UK and Pakistan”. He subsequently read about it from the gazette published in 1960 and cited by the SC in a judgment in 1999, adding that witness has to be made subject to a court’s jurisdiction for his statement.

Investigation in Avenfield apartments case still underway

As per the document, he said, the Supreme Court Judicature, London, can examine witness. “By way of issuing commission, the court and the prosecutor can examine witness in the highest court of England.”

Pervaiz said Radley in his declaration about his terms and conditions before the JIT had said: “I may be required to attend the court for cross examination” and there is no mention of video link. He said the family and anti-terrorism laws have provision for video link but the NAB ordinance is silent about it.

Following the arguments, the court reserved verdict for a few hours and later pronounced it.

Radley, being a forensic examiner, had revealed that the type font used in trust deeds of two companies was Calibri which was not commercially available before January 31, 2007 while the documents were prepared and signed on an earlier date.

Raja is said to be a nephew of Wajid Zia who headed the JIT that probed into the Panama leaks on Supreme Court’s direction.

Maryam Nawaz was completely caught up in the fallout from the leaked Panama Papers over the use of Calibri font. Safdar was a witness of the documents.

Following the pronouncement of order, the court adjourned the case till February 6 when date and time for recording testimony of witnesses in foreign jurisdiction would be decided.

 

 

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