Wajid Zia resumes recording statement in Al Azizia case against Nawaz

Wajid Zia resumes recording statement in Al Azizia case against Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia resumed recording his statement in the Al Azizia reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif today.

Nawaz reached the accountability court after landing at Islamabad airport from Lahore.

Zia, who headed the Panama case Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Sharif family's assets last year, has already testified in the Avenfield properties reference.

As the hearing went under way, Zia presented details of cheques given by the former premier to his daughter Maryam. 

On March 27, Nawaz gave Maryam a cheque of Rs40 million, on February 14 one of Rs5 million and a Rs37 million cheque on May 10, 2016, he stated.

Later, Nawaz was allowed to leave the proceedings while the court took a short recess. 

As the hearing resumed, Zia submitted to court the June 28, 2017, reply to the JIT's MLA request from the UAE. 

However, Nawaz's counsel Khawaja Haris objected that the person who translated the Arabic letter was not included as a witness. 

Once again, Haris also objected to the prosecution's alleged insistence on presenting Maryam Nawaz as a culprit in the case. He reiterated that the former premier's daughter is not a suspect in the case. 

The hearing is under way. 

He began recording his statement in the reference on Thursday (yesterday). 

At the last hearing, Zia informed the court about his appointment as the JIT's head and the Supreme Court's terms of reference with regards to the probe.

He said that the JIT work involved determining the ownership of the Sharif family's assets.

Zia informed further that the JIT send mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests to the UAE and Saudi Arabia with regard to the case.

Saudis didn’t respond to any MLA request, he added. 

Zia also provided details of other correspondence of the JIT with regards to Qatari prince Hammad bin Jassim, a close aide of the Sharif family and their business partner.

During the hearing, Haris and the NAB prosecutor also exchanged harsh words over the prosecution's objections to the defence counsel's constant questioning.

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

On Wednesday, hearing the Avenfield reference, Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir had remarked that the decisions on all three references against the accused will be given together.

The corruption cases
The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017 with a six-month deadline. 

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.

NAB had earlier filed interim references in all three cases and later added supplementary references to them with new evidence and witnesses.

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.

Later, on May 9, the trial court's second plea for a deadline extension was approved by the Supreme Court which gave a month to both sides to finish the corruption cases.