Wajid Zia produces Qatari letter in court in Al Azizia reference


ISLAMABAD: Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head and prosecution Wajid Zia on Friday produced the “original letter” of Qatari prince Hamad Bin Jassim in the court.

Zia headed the Supreme Court-mandated JIT to probe the assets of the Sharif family resumed recording his statement in the Al Azizia reference concerning Nawaz Sharif and his sons—Hassan and Hussain.

Earlier, Zia recorded statements in the Avenfield reference before the accountability court headed by Judge Muhammad Bashir.

Over the course of the hearing, Zia produced the original letter of Hamad Bin Jassim which was dated July 17, 2017, and addressed to JIT. He also produced copies before the court; however, the defence team raised an objection, saying the documents do not bear a stamp or seal.

Besides the letter, the JIT head presented attested copy, dated July 28, 2017, of the United Arab Emirates’ government response when it asked the latter for a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA). A copy of the Arabic version of the MLA response was also placed before the court.

Zia also produced an attested copy of a chart that pertained major transactions in the accounts of Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz from Hussain Nawaz and Hill Metals. Though, the court asked him to present a legible copy of the chart.

However, the defence counsel objected to it and said that these documents cannot be made part of the investigation report which rules out its admissibility.

Multiple objections, however, irked the prosecution team led by Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi. He said, “This is a waste of court’s time” while calling out the defence counsel for “unnecessary objections”.

He urged the defence counsel to limit the objections. “Should I leave the courtroom so that objections too could be recorded by the prosecution team?” Haris retorted.

To most of the defence objections, the prosecution simply had one word to say: misconceived. The court will take up the case again on Monday morning to continue recording Zia’s statement.

At the last hearing, Zia had said, “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.”

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.