Maryam, Safdar acquitted in Avenfield case

IHC tells NAB prosecutor to prove what he was arguing with evidence


​ Our Correspondents September 29, 2022

ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court on Thursday set aside the conviction of PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz and her spouse Capt (retd) Mohammad Safdar handed down by an accountability court in the Avenfield reference four years ago and acquitted the couple.

In July 2018, the accountability court had sentenced Maryam to seven years in prison and imposed a fine of two million pounds on her.

Safdar was sentenced to one year in prison. The couple was later released on bail, after which their appeals were pending.

As a two-judge bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani started the hearing, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi told the court that Avenfield flats were owned by Nielsen and Nescoll companies and were bought in 1993 and after that.

Justice Farooq told the NAB prosecutor that he had earlier said Maryam's role started from 2006.

He added that now the prosecutor was contending that Maryam was the beneficial owner of all the properties. “So should we now understand that [PML-N supremo, ex-premier and Maryam's father] Nawaz Sharif had nothing to do with this case?” he inquired.

The judge noted that Nawaz’s name was nowhere in the documents.

Justice Farooq told the prosecutor to first decide what NAB’s position was and if he agreed with it, he must provide evidence to back the claims.

The NAB prosecutor replied that Nawaz had hidden these properties through Maryam.

“We have proved the ownership of the properties,” he added.

Justice Farooq told the prosecutor that it was an accepted fact that the apartments belonged to Nielsen and Nescoll companies. However, he told the NAB prosecutor to prove what he was arguing with evidence.

“The question remains that how is this related to Nawaz and Maryam having assets beyond their known sources of income,” the judge added.

The NAB prosecutor told the court that Wajid Zia, a former director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) who headed the joint investigation team in the Panamagate case — had reviewed the documents himself and expressed his opinion on them.

To this, Justice Kayani remarked that the opinion of the investigating officer could not be taken as evidence.

“The JIT did not state any facts, only collected information that cannot be taken as evidence,” he added.

The NAB prosecutor said the PML-N supremo’s sons, Hasan and Hussain, had filed separate petitions in the Supreme Court.

The court noted that Hasan and Hussain had also claimed that these properties came to them after a settlement with a Qatari family in 2006.

It added that if a grandfather was making any settlement for his grandsons, then Nawaz had not come anywhere in the matter.

The NAB prosecutor argued that this was a case of properties made abroad whose documents were also prepared there.

“We brought the record that was in access. What else could we have brought?” he added.

Justice Farooq replied that everything was documented abroad and it was not difficult to bring the record. “You could have made the case much better,” he added.

The judge added that if Wajid Zia had learnt that the properties abroad were worth millions of dollars, he could have brought documentary evidence to prove it.

Justice Kayani remarked that the case had been completed and the accused should not have to clarify themselves as it was NAB’s job to prove them guilty.

Later outside the IHC, Maryam spoke to her father on the phone and later to her uncle, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and both of them congratulated her on the verdict.

She told the media that her father stood “vindicated” after the judgment.

After the verdict, Maryam is now eligible to contest the next general elections.

However while speaking to journalists, she appeared reluctant to say much on the issue.

“Party head Nawaz and PM Shehbaz will decide when and where I will contest,” she added.

Taking to Twitter, PM Shehbaz wrote that the “edifice of lies, slander and character assassination” had come crumbling down.

“Maryam’s acquittal in the Avenfield reference is a slap in the face of so-called accountability system that was employed to target the Sharif family. My congratulations to Maryam beti and Safdar,” he added.

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