Avenfield case: Nawaz's counsel challenges Panama case JIT report

Avenfield case: Nawaz's counsel challenges Panama case JIT report

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's counsel Khawaja Haris Thursday challenged the Panama case joint investigation team (JIT) report while presenting concluding arguments in the Avenfield properties reference against the Sharif family.

The Avenfield reference, pertaining to the Sharif family's London properties, is among three references filed against the Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last year on the Supreme Court's directives in the Panama Papers case.

As the hearing went under way in the court of Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir, Haris informed the court that the Panama case JIT was formed as an investigative body.

He said the investigation team was bound to work within its defined jurisdiction, but it made comments, analyses, statements and results part of its report.

Nawaz's counsel noted that the former premier's link with [his family's] business could not be established, then why an explanation was being demanded.

He also referred to the Supreme Court's judgment of April 20, 2017 wherein the JIT's formation was ordered.

"Had it been a routine case then the matter would have been handed over to the NAB," Haris said, adding that the NAB would have investigated the matter and then a reference would have been filed after investigations.

Responding to the counsel's objections to the JIT report, the judge remarked that Haris should have objected to specific portions of the report instead of the overall document.

Haris informed the court that JIT head Wajid Zia had also presented documents not related to the case before the court.

"When Nawaz was not related to the family business, why was he being asked to present documents?" Haris said, adding that Zia had admitted in court that a direct link between Nawaz and the business had not been established.

Responding to Haris, Judge Bashir remarked that the court will announce its verdict on making the JIT report a part of the court's record.

The hearing was then adjourned till June 22. Haris will continue to present his arguments on Friday. 

Haris returns 
Haris resumed his role as Nawaz's chief counsel on Tuesday after having recused himself earlier owing to the Supreme Court's new one-month deadline.

On Wednesday, in his arguments, he asserted that Nawaz did not accept ownership of the London properties. 

He further said that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. "Here the prosecution has put the burden of the proof on the defence".

"Nawaz's ownership was never proven. If the ownership had been proven only then we could have discussed the supposed difference between income and assets," he added.

Nawaz and Maryam were on Tuesday granted a four-day exemption from appearing in court. The former premier and his daughter are in London to tend to Nawaz's wife Begum Kulsoom who is in a critical condition there.

The cases

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.

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 Limited, 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.

Later, the deadline was extended twice more, with the new date falling at July 10 now. APP