Witnesses’ statements recorded against Nawaz, family; hearing adjourned until Jan 9


ISLAMABAD Jan 03 (TNS):  Three witnesses recorded their statements today in the corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, daughter Maryam, and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar.

All three attended the hearing into the three references filed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case.

The three references pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and London’s Avenfield properties.

Nawaz and his family members reached the court complex early morning to be present at the hearing, which was conducted by Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir.

Nawaz also spoke to the media after the hearing and expressed disappointment at the ‘futile attempts’ to drag him in court cases.

A number of senior cabinet members and leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were present at the Federal Judicial Complex where the court is situated.

Speaking to the media on his way to the court, Safdar said the time has come to bring former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf back to Pakistan to face the courts. He added that this has to be done if the state and Constitution are to be safeguarded.

As the hearing went underway, witness Mohammad Tasleem recorded his statement after which Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris conducted the cross-examination of the witness.

Tasleem is the Inland Revenue Commissioner at the Federal Board of Revenue.

Later, the prosecution’s second witness, NAB assistant director Zawwar Manzoor began recording his statement.

He was later cross-examined by Harris as well as Amjad Pervez, the counsel for Maryam and Safdar.

Another witness, Yasir Shabbir, then recorded his statement and was cross-examined.

Shabbir, an official of a private bank, provided details of bank account details of the accused.

The hearing was then adjourned until January 9, when six more witnesses have been summoned.

The last hearing on December 19 marked the former premier’s 10th appearance before the accountability court.

The court, up until December 19, had held 16 hearings each of the Flagship Investment and Avenfield properties references, and 20 of Al-Aziza Steel Mills’. Ten prosecution witnesses have recorded their statement on behalf of the prosecution.

The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and another against the then-Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.

The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court’s order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.

The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties, and over dozen offshore companies allegedly owned by the family.

Maryam and Safdar are only nominated in the London properties reference. At an earlier hearing, the court also approved Maryam and Safdar’s bail in the Avenfield properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.

Safdar was also directed to take the court’s permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and Safdar.

NAB’s Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.

Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family’s Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.

If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.