–NAB witness says deposed PM owned Neilson and Nescoll while being in office and used companies to buy London properties
ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Investigation Officer (IO) and key witness in the graft cases against the Sharif family, Imran Dogar on Thursday told the judge that ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif was the beneficial owner of two offshore companies — Neilson and Nescol.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed to probe the Panama Paper allegations against the Sharif family had earlier declared that both companies are owned by Maryam Nawaz.
An accountability court in Islamabad resumed the hearing of the Avenfield reference filed by NAB against the Sharif family. Former premier Nawaz and daughter Maryam were both present in the court.
Nawaz’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, presented arguments against the prosecution while NAB’s prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi requested the court to record Dogar’s statement.
“Nawaz is the beneficial owner of two offshore companies named Neilson and Nescol,” said the IO. He also shared details of the course of NAB’s investigation and issuance of mutual legal assistance (MLAs) requests to the UK authorities regarding the ownership of the London flats and offshore companies.
The MLAs requested information pertaining to the true owners of the two offshore companies. Nawaz was the owner of London Flats while being in office, Dogar revealed.
At one point, after the defence counsel’s objection, the judge directed the prosecution to refrain from interacting with the witness.
He also said that Maryam and her brother Hussain were directors and shareholders of Hudaibiya Paper Mills, while their other brother, Hassan, was a shareholder.
He said that the Avenfield properties were also mentioned in a schedule attached with a Queen’s Bench Division decision as being under the ownership of the Sharifs.
When questioned by Khawaja Harris, Dogar said he had not attempted to meet Lawrence Radley, a partner at Broomhead. Radley had, in an earlier hearing, submitted a letter to the accountability court saying that he acted on behalf of unidentified owners of the properties who had bought them through offshore companies. He had stated that instructions for their purchase had not been received from the Sharif family.
However, Dogar explained that since the London properties were bought through offshore companies — which are made to protect the original owner’s identity — Radley’s letter was deemed irrelevant as it did not divulge any new information. Jeremy Freeman — a witness to the trust deed regarding the Avenfield properties submitted in the case — and his Freeman Box law firm had also not been included in the investigations since that was not necessary after Radley’s statement, Dogar said.
He explained that multiple copies of the trust deed were presented to the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the Sharif family’s business dealings in the Panamagate case, and even the accused had not relied on the documents presented by Freeman.
Meanwhile, the prosecution and defence lawyers exchanged hot words over the witness’s cross-examination.
A NAB director was also admonished by the accountability judge for whispering in the witness’s ear, at which he promptly apologised.
The reference, now in its final stages, is among four filed by NAB against the Sharif family on the orders of the Supreme Court.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Dogar had testified that Nawaz Sharif owned the London Flats while he was in public office.
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 Ltd, 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.