ISLAMABAD: Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia informed the accountability court on Friday that the JIT did not come across any documents showing that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was the owner, shareholder, sole-proprietor or director of Hill Metal Establishment (HME).
Zia, the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) key witness, informed the court that there is no documented evidence to show that Sharif may have been authorised to act on behalf of HME for the purpose of running its business, sign agreements for purchase of machinery, or for obtaining lane on lease or otherwise on its behalf. He said HME was registered in 2005.
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Zia admitted that the “JIT did not come across any document relating to HME in which the name of accused Nawaz Sharif figured as the owner, shareholder, sole-proprietor or director of HME.” The details surfaced during the cross-examination of Zia by defence counsel Khawaja Haris in NAB’s Al-Azizia Mill and HME reference.
Zia also admitted that JIT did not come across any document or authorisation for Sharif to maintain or operate bank accounts of HME or him dealing with banks or financial institution on its behalf.
“No witness appeared before the JIT to state that Sharif was involved in the establishment of HME,” Zia said, adding that no witness told that Sharif had contributed funds for the establishment of HME.
He also said that the JIT never asked him any specific questions as to how HME was set up.
The JIT also did not ask Sharif who was the owner of the HME, who contributed funds for its establishment, wherefrom the funds were arranged for its expansion, who was running the business, or the legal status of HME. He added that the JIT only asked Sharif one specific question about whether an amount of money he received from HME was used for political funding, which Sharif denied.
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Zia said, “No witness appeared before JIT to state that during his stay abroad, accused Hussain Nawaz Sharif was dependent on accused Muhammad Nawaz Sharif of funds required for his business or his day-to-day living expenses.” It was determined through the documents that birth date of Hussain Nawaz is May 1, 1972, and in 2005, he was 33 years old.
Zia said the JIT does not have evidence to show that Nawaz Sharif had in any capacity participated in operating Gulf Steel Mills (GSM) or he was holding any office in GSM. Moreover, JIT does not have any document to show that he had been instrumental in for obtaining any loan for GSM or he was involved in the sale of shares of GSM.
There is also no oral or documented evidence to show that Sharif was involved in conveying the machinery from UAE to KSA for Al-Azizia Steel Company Ltd (ASCL).
During cross-examination, it also emerged that neither Sharif nor any witness told JIT that he was involved in the business of Ahli Steel Mills (ASM). Zia admitted that the JIT did not come across any evidence to show that Sharif was involved in the receipt or disposal of the proceeds derived from the sale of GSM in 1980.
No witness informed JIT that Sharif was involved in any manner delivering to Sheikh Fahad Bin Jaber Bin Jasim Al-Thani the amount of any money statedly arising out of the sale of GSM in 1980.
With reference to the investment with Qatari royals, Zia conceded that the two letters written by Al-Thani made no mention of Nawaz Sharif participating in any of the events pertaining to the stated investment of the late Muhammad Sharif with the Qatari royals or the stated settlement of the said investment in the year 2006 for Avenfield properties, as noted in their content.
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He accepted that no witness told the JIT that Sharif was in any manner present or involved or participated in any of the transactions with respect to the investment stated to have been made with the Qatari Royal, the disbursement or accrual thereof or the final settlement of London properties in 2006.
Moreover, Zia admitted that it is correct that during the investigation, it was Hussain Nawaz’s stand that his grandfather was very old at that time and the responsibility of running ASCL's business rested on Hussain.
Zia conceded that during the investigation, the JIT did not come across any evidence showing that ASCL was run by any person other than Hussain Nawaz.
With regards to HME, Zia said that it did not come to the notice of JIT as to whether HME was a sole proprietorship or not. Later, while looking at some documents, it emerged that complete name of HME is Hill Modern Industry for Metals Establishment and Hussain Nawaz is its sole proprietor.
Zia admitted that another document produced by Hussain Nawaz before the JIT pertaining to HME referred him as the CEO and also a borrower. Zia said that all these documents pertaining to HME were filed before the JIT and not before the Supreme Court.
Revealing that these documents were produced before the JIT on June 3, 2017, Zia admitted that no member of the JIT went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for verification of the documents after June 3, 2017.
Zia also admitted that it is correct that no Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) request was sent by the JIT for verification purposes to KSA after June 3, 2017.
Zia said that there is no witness or document collected by JIT showed that HME is not a sole propriety. No witness told JIT that Hussain was not the sole proprietor of HME. In addition, Zia said JIT did not come across any document relating to the incorporation of HME.
The JIT also did not come across any evidence showing that Rabia Shahbaz or Abbas Sharif had participated in running ASCL. Zia said that there is no oral or documentary evidence to show that Abbas or Rabia received any portion of the income derived from the business of ASCL.