Head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on Panamagate Wajid Zia testified before the accountability court in Islamabad that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was not the owner but one of the shareholders of Al-Azizia Steel Mills.
During the cross-examination in the Al-Azizia reference, Zia, the star prosecution witness, admitted that the JIT could not obtain any evidence or document to substantiate its claim that Nawaz was the owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mills.
When Zia was asked how the JIT drew the conclusion that Nawaz was a shareholder of the mills, the witness referred to the statements of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz which they had recorded before the JIT last year during the two-month-long probe on the Panama Papers case.
He read out the statement of Shahbaz and quoted the younger Sharif as saying, “I do know [that] there were three shareholders namely Hussain Nawaz, Rabia Shahbaz [Shahbaz’s daughter] and Abbas Sharif.”
Zia further stated before the court that Nawaz himself confirmed that fact as well.
According to him, the real owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mills was Nawaz but it was being operated by his son Hussain.
However, lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed asked him to revisit the JIT report and reminded him that Nawaz in his statement before the investigation team had said that his father Mian Mohammad Sharif had set up Al-Azizia Steel Mills and later apportioned its shareholding since he wanted an equitable distribution of shares among his family members.
As per Zia, Hussain was in fact representing Nawaz Sharif in the shareholding. He, however, admitted that there was no evidence that could prove Nawaz was the owner of the mills nor has any witness recorded any statement with the JIT in this regard.
Responding to other questions by Haris, the star witness said that there was no proof with the JIT that Nawaz ever sent any amount for setting up Al-Azizia Mills or received anything from the sale proceeds of the said mills.
He further admitted that Nawaz never personally operated Al-Azizia Steel Mills and that the JIT could not obtain any record related to the ownership of the mills.
At the outset of today’s hearing, Haris asked Zia questions related to the wealth statement and transactions in the bank accounts of Nawaz.
Zia stated that during the financial year 2010-2011, Nawaz received US $1.15 million from his son Hussain and Hill Metal Establishment (HME).
Special prosecutor of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Wasiq Malik objected to the question, saying that the witness had not said anything about the wealth statement while recording his statement before the accountability court.
Haris on the other hand pointed out that Zia had claimed that there were some anomalies in Nawaz’s financial statements, therefore, he is obliged to respond with relevant questions.
The defence counsel then asked multiple questions related to Nawaz’s foreign currency account and his financial statement for the year 2010-11.
When Haris asked Zia whether the JIT had ascertained the value of foreign currency in the amount given in Nawaz’s wealth statement, the latter responded that the investigation team determined the value of foreign currency deposited in the bank account in accordance with the prevalent rate of US dollar. He, however, conceded that the JIT report had not applied the prevalent exchange rate for the amount shown in Nawaz’s wealth statement.
Accountability judge Mohammad Bashir then adjourned the proceedings till Friday (today).