ISLAMABAD .: Former premier Nawaz Sharif’s counsel on Tuesday told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed into the Panama Papers scandal prepared an analysis of income and assets chart but the JIT head neither said a single word about it nor exhibited it as evidence during his testimony in the Avenfield Apartments reference.
Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris told IHC’s division bench – comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb – that the investigation officer (IO) in the flats reference during his testimony exhibited the chart, which showed as evidence income, assets, tax and wealth of jailed PM Sharif.
However, according to Haris, when the IO was asked, he admitted that he did not know who had prepared the chart. Reading from officer’s testimony, Haris said the IO made no effort to investigate who prepared the chart.
“This is strange. The JIT prepared the chart but the JIT head did not utter a single word about it in his examination and also did not produce it as evidence,” Justice Minallah observed.
“The IO brought it as a piece of evidence but he doesn’t know who prepared it,” he said, adding the court was not appreciating the evidence but having a cursory look at the developments.
The bench expressed its surprise over the fact that the witness who was supposed to produce a certain document did not produce it and the one who produced it did not know who made it.
In his arguments, Haris said the objections on chart were not decided before recording statement of the accused under section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) as well as in the final judgment.
He said no question pertaining to the value of property in 1993, 1995 and 1996 – the years in which London flats were purchased – was put to Sharif while recording his statement under section 342 of CrPC. Haris conceded to Justice Minallah’s observation that basically the trial court was required to take it into consideration and state why the document [chart] was used as evidence against Sharif.
Hairs said the court did not confront Sharif with any question regarding the chart.
The bench while addressing the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Special Prosecutor Akram Qureshi, a former judge of the Lahore High Court, to note the point and argue on it during his arguments.
Justice Minallah questioned if it was possible that the JIT did not produce the chart in such a crucial case. Among other questions, the court also asked NAB prosecutor to address the situation where there is not a full sentence awarded to accused.
The direction came after the court noticed that, apparently, the trial court as well NAB were satisfied with lesser punishment. “I will address each and everything,” Qureshi replied.
When asked if possession of the flats was enough to prove Sharif’s ownership of the properties, Haris said Sharif may have briefly stayed in the apartments but possession and ownership of the properties remained with Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain. He said even Sharif’s father used to stay there and possession and ownership were two different things.
On July 6, an accountability court convicted and sentenced Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield Apartments reference.
NAB had filed three references – Avenfield, Al-Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship & other companies – against the members of Sharif family in line with Supreme Court’s order of July 28, 2017.
Sharifs challenged the judgement and filed both appeals against their conviction and petitions seeking suspension of the sentences before the IHC. At the moment, the court is only hearing arguments on the petitions seeking suspension of the sentences.
Following the arguments, the court adjourned till today (Wednesday) when Haris and the couple’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz, would conclude their arguments.
From Wednesday, NAB will start presenting arguments in the cases. Meanwhile, the accountability court conducting hearing of Al-Azizia reference adjourned the case till today as Haris was busy at the IHC.