ISLAMABAD: An accountability court hearing graft cases against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members on Friday approved National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) plea to record statements of two UK-based witnesses via video link.
The court had reserved the decision about the plea, earlier on Friday.
A request was submitted on behalf of Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) leaders Maryam and Nawaz to be exempted from the hearing. PML-N leader Captain (r) Safdar, however, did attend the hearing.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi told the court that the witnesses are unwilling to come to Pakistan due to security concerns and that there is no legal provision to produce a foreign witness. He said that witnesses could record their statements on Feb 6 and 7.
To this Maryam and Safdar’s counsel Amjad Pervez argued that going by that logic, his clients should also then be allowed to record statements via video links.
The court reserved the decision in the case.
In the last hearing on Tuesday, the ATC rejected the defence team’s objections to the supplementary reference that was filed by 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.
The NAB has in total filed three references against the Sharif family and another against the then-finance minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court, in light of the Supreme Court’s orders in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28.
The anti-graft body was given six weeks, from the date of the apex court’s order, to file the reference in an accountability court while the accountability court was granted six months to wrap up the proceedings.
The references against the Sharif family pertain to the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, their London properties, and over dozen offshore companies owned by the family.
Maryam and Safdar are only nominated in the London properties reference. At an earlier hearing, the court also approved Maryam and Safdar’s bail in the Avenfield properties case and ordered them to submit surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.
Safdar was also directed to take the court’s permission before leaving the country from now on. The judge also provided a copy of the reference — spread over 53 volumes — to Maryam and Safdar.
NAB’s Rawalpindi branch prepared two references regarding the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment, and the nearly dozen companies owned by the Sharif family.
Its Lahore branch prepared a reference on the Sharif family’s Avenfield apartments in London and another against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
If convicted, the accused may face up to 14 years imprisonment and lifelong disqualification from holding public office including the freezing of bank accounts and assets.