–NAB prosecutor general says supplementary reference was filed after bureau obtained additional evidence under MLA
–NAB requests judge to allow two witnesses to record testimonies via video link from UK
ISLAMABAD: An accountability court hearing graft cases against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members on Tuesday rejected the defence team’s objections to the supplementary reference that was filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) earlier in January in connection with the Avenfield flats reference.
Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir had reserved the verdict after hearing arguments presented by the NAB prosecutor general and Nawaz’s lawyer. The judge later decided that the supplementary reference would be made part of the record in the Avenfield reference.
At the onset of the hearing, NAB Prosecutor General Syed Asghar Haider said that the bureau’s investigations are ongoing and will continue until the court announces its verdict. He added that the bureau will request the court to include in the record any further evidence if it is discovered.
Haider said that the supplementary reference was filed before the trial court in connection with the London properties reference as new evidence had come forward. The supplementary reference ─ which names Nawaz, three of his children and Safdar ─ was filed after NAB investigators obtained additional evidence under the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).
“There was no need to file a supplementary reference in order to include new evidence in the record,” Nawaz’s lawyer Khawaja Harris argued, adding that the evidence could have been included in the record through a request to the court and called on NAB to clarify why there was a need to file a supplementary reference.
“NAB did not find any new information under the MLA,” he said before the judge reserved the verdict, adding that NAB should have pointed out what was new in the supplementary reference. “The allegations have been repeated in the supplementary reference.”
Advocate Harris maintained the new reference is not in keeping with the SC’s Panama Papers order. As he requested the court not to accept the bureau’s reference, the NAB prosecutor general argued that it is not against the law to file a supplementary reference.
“The supplementary reference should be considered to be additional evidence,” Judge Bashir told the lawyers.
During the hearing, Maryam Nawaz’s lawyer Amjad Pervez also raised objections against the supplementary reference.
“A completely different story has been presented in the supplementary reference,” the advocate said. “First, it was said that the London property is owned by the Sharifs. Now, the supplementary reference focuses only on Nawaz.”
“The supplementary reference does not say anything about Maryam Nawaz being the beneficial owner of the properties,” he said.
He recalled that NAB had filed an application in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) challenging the accountability court’s decision to delete the charge of producing forged documents in Calibri font from the charge sheets filed against Maryam and Safdar. Advocate Pervez added that the bureau had later withdrawn its application from the IHC.
Advocate Pervez said that the the new reference was not “supplementary”, but a different reference in the eyes of the law.
After the accountability court rejected the Sharifs’ objections to the supplementary reference, NAB requested the court to allow two of its witnesses in the reference ─ Robert W. Radley, an expert of the Radley Forensic Document Laboratory and Raja Akhtar ─ to record their testimonies via video link as they are both in the UK. The court is expected to hear arguments regarding this from the lawyers on February 6.
The court summoned five more witnesses to appear in court on February 6 and adjourned the hearing for the day.
PREVIOUS WITNESSES STATEMENTS:
On Jan 23, the regional manager operations of a private bank, Ghulam Mustafa, appeared in court as a witness and recorded his statement.
Mustafa told the court that on August 22, 2017, he had appeared at NAB’s Rawalpindi offices with Yasir Shabir, an officer from a private bank. Mustafa added that on the occasion, Shabir had presented details of Nawaz’s bank accounts to the investigating officer along with details of the former premier’s transactions. According to the witness, the investigating officer, after receiving the verified documents, had prepared a seizure memo.
In a recent hearing of the case, a witness from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan had made a similar statement.
On January 9, Sidra Mansoor had told the court that the SECP had found no transactions linking the Sharif family with Al-Azizia Steel or Hill Metal Establishment. During cross-examination, she had confirmed that while Hussain Nawaz was a shareholder in Mehran Ramzan Textile Mills Limited, the company had no connection or transactions with either of the two companies under investigation.
NAB Assistant Director Aziz Rehan, another witness presented by the prosecution on Tuesday, said that Mansoor had appeared before the bureau on August 25 last year and submitted documents.
The witness confirmed, therefore, what Mansoor had told the court during her testimony: that she had recorded a statement before NAB on August 25 and provided documents regarding Mehran Ramzan Textile Mills Limited in relation to Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz ─ the three shareholders in the company. Rehan added that the seizure memo against Nawaz was prepared by investigating officer Mehboob Alam, who had also recorded Rehan’s statement and asked for his signature on the memo.
A third witness, Afaq Ahmed, was unable to record his statement as he was unable to retrieve certain documents from the SC.