Wajid Zia records statement in Al Azizia case

  • JIT chief says SC asked about Gulf Steel Mills and how transfers were made  from Qatar to UK and Saudi Arabia 

ISLAMABAD: Wajid Zia, who headed the Panama case joint investigation team (JIT) which probed the Sharif family assets last year, began recording his statement in an accountability court conducting corruption proceedings against the Sharif family today.

Judge Muhammad Bashir of the Accountability Court presided over the hearing.

“I was working as an additional director for FIA on April 20 and the Supreme Court (SC) ordered us to form a JIT. SC asked questions pertaining to Gulf Steel Mills, including its formation, sales and dues. It also made inquiry of how investment transferred from Qatar to the UK and Saudi Arabia,” Zia said.

The JIT chief also said that the top court had asked for the authenticity of the letter penned by the Qatari Prince Hamad Bin Jasim in favour of former premier Nawaz Sharif. “Gifts worth millions given to Nawaz from his son Hussain Nawaz were also to be investigated. These are the questions for which investigation was needed,” Zia continued.

He added that questions related to the London flats were also asked.

A question relating to a British company which wasn’t particularly concerned with the reference was also asked. During the hearing, there was a heated exchange between Nawaz’s counsel, Khawaja Haris and NAB’s leading prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi.

Abbasi raised issues of Haris’ consistent objections to Zia’s statement. “I am legally entitled to raise objections,” Haris said.

“They would object to anything and everything, whether right or wrong,” Abbasi responded.

“You must support the change with reference to a particular law. My lord, have you ever seen a trial where objections are raised after the proceedings?” Khawaja Haris asked.

Earlier, Nawaz reached the accountability court after arriving in Islamabad from Lahore on a private plane.

Zia had already testified in the Avenfield case against the Sharifs.

On Wednesday, hearing the Avenfield reference, Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir had remarked that the decisions on all three references against the accused will be given together.

The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses in the Avenfield case was completed at the last hearing.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court extended the deadline, for the second time, to conclude the corruption cases until June 9. The court originally had a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge had requested the apex court.

Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the accountability court after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed references against them in light of the SC’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 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.

NAB had earlier filed interim references in all three cases and later added supplementary references to them with new evidence and witnesses.