ISLAMABAD: An accountability court conducting hearing in the Avenfield apartments reference against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members on Tuesday said it would announce judgment on July 6 (Friday).
Earlier, the court reserved its judgment in the case after almost 10 months of proceedings and roughly 80 plus appearances of the former prime minister, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and Son-in-Law Capt (retd) Safdar Abbasi.
Judge Muhammad Bashir reserved the judgment after defence counsel Amjad Pervaiz concluded his arguments, saying he would pronounce the judgment on July 6 and, subsequently, issued notice to the accused requiring their attendance before the court on Friday.
Meanwhile, the court during Tuesday’s proceedings granted exemption from personal appearance to Sharif till Wednesday.
In his final arguments, Amjad Pervaiz said “the entire investigation of the joint investigation team was conducted with a preconceived mind to implicate the whole Sharif family in the cases”.
During his arguments, he reiterated that malice of the JIT was floating on the surface in the reference.
In his arguments, the counsel said that there is no seal and certification of the Financial Investigation Agency (FIA) of British Virgin Island (BVI) on the Mossack Fonseca’s letters of 2012 through which the prosecution had called Maryam Nawaz as the beneficial owner of the London properties.
He said a letter, dated July 3, 2017, addressed to Zia by the FIA Director Errol George doesn’t contain a covering letter and the covering letter of the AG office of the BVI, dated July 4, 2017, is not mentioned and appended in Volume 4 of the JIT.
In addition, Pervaiz drew the court’s attention towards Zia and the investigation officer’s statements, respectively.
Zia had admitted during cross examination that Volume 4 of the JIT report had 240 pages which he had submitted before the Supreme Court and it did not have the AG office’s letter in it.
The investigation officer had also admitted that he did not know who, when and how the covering letter got appended at page 241 along with several other pages in Volume 4 submitted before the court by NAB.
Pervaiz argued that two replies of Mossack Fonseca were only notarised; however, the official seal and certification as required by the FIA Act of 2003 is missing that renders all the documents of no probative value.
He said the JIT set several parameters, including incorporation certificates, first board resolution of Nielson and Nescoll, names of directors and shareholders since the inception of the companies, memorandum of articles of association, names, contact details, address of the real and beneficial owner of the companies, to determine the ownership and beneficial owner of the Avenfield Apartments.
In the MLA dated May 31, 2017, he said, the JIT wrote to AG BVI and sought all those details which, as per the JIT, was declined.
In the MLA dated June 23, 2017, the JIT dropped all those details and simply sought correspondence between BVI FIA and Mossack Fonseca of the year 2012.
“Law abhors second-hand rendering of evidence and doesn’t place reliance on such evidence,” Pervaiz said while referring to a judgment.
In addition, he said, George doesn’t say anything about the veracity of the contents of the 2012 letters. Also, he said, neither he is author nor custodian of the letters.
“Why didn’t JIT directly send MLA to Mossack Fonseca? Why did the JIT not directly ask Minerva about the ownership and beneficial owner of the Avenfield Apartments?” Pervaiz questioned.
“Malice floats on the surface of the JIT investigation,” Pervaiz said, adding that the JIT did not seek verification of letters of one Lawrence Radley, who was a partner of the firm between 1993 and 1996.
Also, he said, the JIT did not seek any verification from Arena, a company that managed the properties under the instructions of Hussain Nawaz since February 2006.
“The same goes for another service providing company JPCA whose letter is on Supreme Court’s record and confirms that it was acting under Hussain Nawaz’s instructions.”
“The JIT was interested only in the evidence against the accused,” he said.
Before him, Shairf’s counsel Khawaja Haris had concluded his arguments in the reference in seven days. Both the counsels had referred to a number of local and international judgments in support to their arguments.
Pervaiz concluded his arguments in four consecutive hearings. Following his arguments, the court reserved judgment for July 6 (Friday).
Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment reference
Earlier in the day, Judge Bashir was irked by the prosecution’s request to prevent the defence counsel from questioning the documents attached with the JIT report during the hearing of Al Azizia and Hill Metal case.
When Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Harris inquired about the verification of the Arabic and translated copies of the professional licence and the land rent agreement related to the Gulf Steel Mill, JIT head Wajid Zia replied that neither the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) response was sought nor did the two JIT members, who travelled to Dubai for investigation, verified the documents.
In a follow-up, Harris asked why Volume 3 of the JIT only included one page of the translated documents of the land rent agreement rather than a complete set. Zia admitted it to be “an inadvertent mistake”.
The cross-examination also revealed that the JIT did not attempt to contact the translator, Ahmed Badran of Atlis Legal Translation, to verify the documents.
“Did the JIT seek verification from an MLA that the license was issued by Dubai Municipality,” asked Harris.
Zia said the documents showed they were issued by the Dubai Municipality but the team did not verify it with an MLA.
At this point, NAB prosecutor Wasiq Malik raised an objection that the defence counsel was questioning the documents that were not exhibited as evidence.
“The defence can only inquire about the veracity of documents referred to in the witness statement,” he said.
He requested the court to bar Harris from questions arising from the documents.
Irked by the irony of the request, Judge Bashir replied why the prosecution had attached the documents in the JIT report if they did not want to debate them over in court. He then directed Haris to continue cross examination.
Zia’s cross examination revealed that the professional licence was first notarised in 1980 and again in May, 2016.
It is attested by the United Arab Emirates Foreign Office and the Pakistani Consulate General in the UAE.
On the other hand, the land rent agreement dated April 1974 is issued by the Rulers Office in the name of Tariq Shafi and Muhammad Hussain for a total area of 10, 000 sq feet for a period of 1975-1976.
Unlike the Avenfield, Zia came prepared for the inquiries pertaining to sending a questionnaire in advance to the witnesses.
When asked if the JIT had sent a questionnaire to any witness in advance, Zia said the team had decided not to send a questionnaire to any witness who had been summoned. Previously, his reply was limited to the extent that the JIT had decided to not send a questionnaire to any witness.
However, he added that “it was correct to suggest that the JIT did not state its decision in the report”.
“Did any of the witnesses, who were summoned including Shafi, Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, ask for a questionnaire in advance?” Harris asked.
Seeking the court’s permission to go through his records, Zia sought additional time to answer the question.
Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing in the Al-Azizia case until July 4 (today).