Wajid Zia’s cross-examination in Al-Azizia reference continues for third day

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Wajid Zia’s cross-examination in Al-Azizia reference continues for third day

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s legal counsel Khawaja Harris resumed Monday morning cross-examination of Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head and prosecution's star witness Wajid Zia in Al-Azizia reference against the Sharif family.

Nawaz and his family members are facing three corruption references in the accountability court — Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments — in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets.

Appearing before the court of accountability judge Muhammad Bashir, Zia, who works as an additional director at the Federal Investigation Agency, remarked that the Share Sale Agreement 1980 of Gulf Steel Mills showed that Nawaz’s cousin Tariq Shafi and Muhammad Hussain were partners.

“However, Muhammad Hussain passed away before the agreement could be materialised,” he said, adding that there was also a letter with the agreement which was signed by the legal heirs of Muhammad Hussain.

“Tariq Shafi had told JIT that Muhammad Hussain's legal heirs were alive and that they had come to Lahore to meet him. We even asked Shafiq for the address of Hussain's son Shehzad Hussain. However, we weren't able to contact him,” Zia added. 

In an earlier hearing on Friday, Zia had said no evidence was found linking former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to Hill Metal Establishment.

“Neither any witness claimed nor there is any document to show that Nawaz was involved in any way with Hill Metal Establishment,” Zia had said during his cross-examination as Judge Mohammad Bashir presided proceedings in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference.

On Thursday, Zia said he did not come across any document during the investigation which showed that Nawaz is the owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mills.

The cases

Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the Accountability Court-I after the NAB filed references against them in light of the Supreme Court's verdict in the Panama Papers case.

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017.

The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, 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 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.

The court originally had a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge requested the apex court. 

 APP