Witnesses record statement in corruption cases against Nawaz, family

Witnesses record statement in corruption cases against Nawaz, family

Islamabad (Web Desk): The accountability court conducting corruption proceedings against former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar has begun the hearing. 

According to details, the proceedings were initiated after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed three references against Nawaz and his family in light of the Supreme Court's July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case. 

The three references pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and London's Avenfield properties.

Nawaz and his family members reached the court complex earlier to be present at the hearing, being conducted by Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir. 

A number of senior cabinet members and leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) are present at the Federal Judicial Complex where the court is situated. 

Safdar said while speaking to the media on his way to the court, the time has come to bring former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf back to Pakistan to face the courts. 

NAB was expected to produce two more witnesses today to record their statements. 

After them, NAB's last witness, Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia, will remain from the list of witnesses originally submitted by NAB. 

Zia headed the Panama case Joint Investigation Team which produced a crucial report leading to Nawaz's disqualification by the Supreme Court. 

As the hearing went under way, witness Mohammad Tasleem recorded his statement after which Nawaz's counsel Khawaja Harris conducted the cross-examination of the witness. 

Tasleem is the Inland Revenue Commissioner at the Federal Board of Revenue. 

Later, the prosecution's second witness, NAB assistant director Zawwar Manzoor began recording his statement. 

He was later cross-examined by Harris as well as Amjad Pervez, the counsel for Maryam and Safdar. 

Following the hearing, Nawaz spoke to the media outside the court. 

The last hearing on December 19 marked the former premier's 10th appearance before the accountability court. 

The court, up until December 19, had held 16 hearings each of the Flagship Investment and Avenfield properties references, and 20 of Al-Aziza Steel Mills'. Ten prosecution witnesses have recorded their statement on behalf of the prosecution. 

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 allegedly 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.