Wajid Zia to record statement in Avenfield reference today

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam were exempted from appearing before the accountability court conducting corruption proceedings against the Sharif family today.
As Judge Mohammad Bashir began proceedings of the Avenfield case, Nawaz and Maryam asked to be exempted from appearance owing to the former premier’s ill health. Accepting their request, the court, however, directed Nawaz’s son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar to remain present in court.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed three interim corruption references against the Sharif family in September last year in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case. The bureau recently filed supplementary references in all three cases as well.

Later, the hearing was adjourned for a brief period as NAB’s primary witness in the case, Wajid Zia — head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Panama Papers case — was not present in court.

The prosecution team informed the judge that Zia will appear shortly after getting the original JIT report from the Supreme Court.

Maryam and Safdar’s counsel, Amjad Pervez, will cross-examine Zia today, while Nawaz’s lawyer Khawaja Haris will cross-examine the witness on March 13.

During the previous hearing on March 2, Nawaz’s counsel had submitted a request to club Zia’s testimony for all three references. The judge, however, dismissed the plea and ordered Zia to appear in court today and record his statement in the Avenfield case.

The cases

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017.
The corruption references, filed against the Sharif family, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.
Nawaz and sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar are accused in the Avenfield reference only.
The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.