ISLAMABAD/LONDON: The star witness against the daughter and the son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Avenfield Apartments reference Robert Radley has admitted that he along with another witness, Akhtar Raja of the Quist Solicitors, had held a meeting with NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, Director Investigation Amjad Nazir Olakh and another official on Wednesday and they had discussed the notes for his statement and cross-examination.
According to laws of England Wales, a forensic expert cannot meet the prosecutors for tutoring.
A forensic expert is bound by law to appear before a court to comment on his report and answer questions but holding meetings with prosecutors are illegal because it could involve tampering of evidence.
The Accountability Court recorded the evidence of the Radley and Akhtar Riaz Raja on whom the cross-examination was also completed at 10:30pm in the night. Radley had completed his statement on Feb 22 and partial cross-examination. On Friday, the cross-examination completed on Akhtar Riaz Raja as well through a video link from Pakistan’s High Commission in London.
The two are national accountability bureau (NAB) prosecution witnesses in Avenfield apartment’s supplementary corruption reference. Statement and cross- examination of Akhtar Raja: Akhtar Riaz Raja of Quist Solicitors Law firm admitted before the Accountability Court (AC) that he is first cousin of Wajid Zia. When Wajid Zia was appointed as head of the joint investigation team (JIT), he congratulated him on phone. Wajid Zia was his initial contact when his services for the forensic verification of the documents pertaining to Avenfield properties were hired though the six members JIT approved his nomination as a counsel.
He said neither he nor his wife has any political affiliation with any political party based in Pakistan and said that there was much misreporting in the press in this regard. He also told the court that he is dual national both Pakistan and United Kingdom. He also told that JIT on its own could have hired the services of Robert W Radley’s forensic laboratory for verification of the documents. He denied that he was paid a huge amount as fee for the said purpose but whatever the fee he was paid the Supreme Court of Pakistan knows about it. Raja also admitted that neither Mian Nawaz Sharif nor Maryam Nawaz was a defendant in the case pertaining Al-Towfeek investment company in which the High Court of Justice Queen's Bench Division in London had charged the four London flats to the extent of interest. In fact, Shehbaz Sharif and two other members of the Sharif family were defendant in that particular case.
Raja is the principal of the above mentioned law firm through which JIT formed for Panama case had hired the services of the Robert W Radley forensic laboratory.
In his statement before the AC, Raja submitted that he is a qualified solicitor and established his law firm by the name of ‘Quist Solicitors’ in 1994. He was engaged by the JIT on May 12, 2017 to provide professional legal services in relation to the Supreme Court of Pakistan proceedings in various writ petitions against the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. I received copies of the bundles submitted to the Supreme Court in order to carry out my investigation. I discovered a letter dated January 5, 2017, that was written by Jeremy Freeman, who referred to the two trust deed declarations of Nelson and Nescol companies, Raja said. Freeman, in the letter, said that Hussain Nawaz Sharif attended his office with the declarations, and he signed and witnessed the document on February 4, 2006. Legal counsel for Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar objected over the letter and said that it is a photocopy that has been attested.
Meanwhile, Raja carried on with his statement and said that he carefully examined the documents at the same time when the JIT was also inspecting these. We discovered numerous irregularities and it appeared a Frankenstein version of forgery that was committed in the documents. In the cross-examination, however, Raja said that in his statement to the NAB Investigation Officer (IO), he did not mention ‘numerous irregularities’. He also admitted in the cross-examination that in his statement to the JIT, he did not stated Frankenstein version of forgery. Raja said that JIT instructed me to search and appoint a forensic expert. The forgery was apparent even to the lay eye and these documents deserved an expert examination, Raja said.
Talking about the Jeremy Freeman’s letter dated January 5, 2017, Raja said that he wrote an email to him, but Jeremy didn’t reply and then I send a chaser through email and by hand as well at the given address. On June 29, 2017, I received a response from Jeremy. Freeman said that Hussain Nawaz attended his office with the original documents and with that the trust deed. Jeremy witnessed signatures of Hussain Nawaz and one Mr Waqar Ahmed. Freeman in his reply also confirmed that the contents of the letter dated January 5, 2017, were true, Raja said. Upon instruction by the JIT, I provided the documents for forensic verification to Mr Radley those were about Nelson, Nescol and Coomber companies. Raja said that he also prepared a commentary about the Al-Towfeek case. At this the defense counsel objected and said that under no law a solicitor can write a commentary and this cannot be exhibited as a piece of evidence. Raja, however, said that he provided his commentary to the JIT upon their asking. My commentary refers to the JIT evidence that refers to a March 1999 judgement in Al-Twofeek case that was decided by the High Court of Justice Queen's Bench Division in London where Shahbaz Sharif was among the defendants. March 1999 judgement was over $20million while a charging order nisi made on November 5, 1999. Raja said that his commentary was based on a May 2000 article that was published in daily Dawn and I duly mentioned that article. During cross-examination, Raja first said he was not part of NAB investigation but later admitted that he recorded his statement to a NAB investigation officer (IO)--Muhammad Imran. He didn’t disclosed that how much fee he was paid and said that it was privileged communication and under the same rule, Jeremy Freeman did not disclose that how much fee he was paid. To a question that under what law he was engaged as a solicitor, Raja said that it was under the rules of England and Wales. About Pakistani law, he said that the Pakistani Supreme Court had initiated action, and he was convinced that it was in line with Pakistani law as well.
Cross-examination of Robert W Radley
Mr Radley here Friday continued with his cross-examination that was completed. He said that he used Video Spector Competitor to examine the documents that were presented to him for forensic verification. With this machine one can tremendously magnify the document and can do the ultra violet analysis as well. This machine can also differentiate between different types of inks, he added. The two documents I examined were little different in size and formation. Radley said that he is not a computer geek, but his training was in fonts. Any IT expert could download Beta-1 in 2005 that included the Calibri font, Radley said. He said that he didn’t write in his report that before January 31, 2007, Calibri font could not be used.
While hearing of the case at several points there was exchange of harsh words between the prosecution team and the defense counsels. Defence counsel objected of prosecution head deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, who is in London and was interfering during the proceedings. AC judge Muhammad Bashir at one point scolded Sardar Muzaffar for his attitude by saying, ‘Muzaffar won’t you let us work’.
After video link proceedings in Avenfield apartments case from Pakistan High Commission in London, Barrister Amjad Malik has said forensic expert Robert W Radley did not know that his reports would be used in a court of law, or it would affect the prime minister or form the basis of a NAB reference against the Sharif family.