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Avenfield reference: AC orders Wajid to get Vol-X from SC

Top Story

April 4, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Accountability Court (AC) judge Muhammad Bashir on Tuesday directed the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia to make a request to the Supreme Court registrar’s office for provision of Volume X of the JIT report, as Nawaz Sharif’s counsel was to cross-examine him (Wajid) regarding some mutual legal assistance (MLA) applications that the JIT had forwarded to the UAE authorities for verification of the documents regarding the Gulf Steel Mills (GSM).

Wajid Zia told the AC that the Supreme Court, on the JIT request, had sealed the Volume X. He said he had also agreed that not only National Accountability Bureau (NAB) would get copies of Volume X when it had to investigate the corruption references but the defence counsel had also seen that part of the report.

Cross-examination of Wajid Zia in the Avenfield apartments corruption reference continued on Tuesday, which is still incomplete despite seven hearings and he will produce Volume X before the court on Wednesday. Legal counsel for Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar isn yet to cross-examine Wajid Zia on Avenfield corruption reference. The Volume X pertains to the JIT correspondence with foreign countries seeking mutual legal assistance from foreign jurisdiction to solve the Panama case.

On Tuesday’s hearing, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz could not appear before the court as their flight from Lahore to Islamabad was cancelled due to bad weather. Exemption applications were then filed that the AC allowed.

Coming back to the court proceedings, the Volume X came under discussion after Khwaja Haris posed a question to Wajid Zia that if the JIT, except for the UAE central authorities, had written any other MLA to any other department of the UAE government. In reply, Wajid said that the JIT did not. Haris then said: “If I say that you wrote to some other departments as well?” Wajid Zia replied that he had to check. He then said that when the JIT report was submitted before the Supreme Court, Volume X was not sealed. The SC on the request of JIT, had sealed it. Then Haris asked Wajid if he would file an application for de-sealing of Volume X. He replied: “Obviously, it will help”.

The AC observed that when Volume X would be produced before the court, its copies would be provided to the defence as well. Counsel for Nawaz Sharif posed a question to Wajid if the JIT forwarded a mutual legal assistance (MLA) application to the authorities in the UAE, seeking answers to the legal questions regarding Tariq Shafi. In the MLA, however, the JIT did not mention that it had attached some documents with the MLAs.

In reply, Wajid said that it was not mentioned but we had attached two share-sales agreements with the MLA. “Except for the reply to the MLA, did you receive any other document from Central Bank of Dubai, Dubai Court System or Dubai Customs authorities?” In reply, Wajid said that the only document they received was banking record of Nawaz Sharif’s cousin Tariq Shafi pertaining to his default on loans.

To a question about the JIT’s MLA as to who responded to it, Wajid said that a judge Abdur Rehman Murad Al-Banoshi, who was director of the International Cooperation Centre, Dubai, had responded to the JIT’s MLA, but no JIT member either recorded his statement or verified his signatures, though the two JIT members had travelled to Dubai, Zia said. The counsel asked that if Al-Banoshi was a director of International Cooperation Centre and not any official of Dubai Customs, Dubai court system or central bank?

To which, Wajid replied in affirmative. He also agreed to the fact that Al-Banoshi had no personal knowledge of what was written in the MLA. He said that the JIT with its MLA had attached the share sales agreement of Gulf Steel Mills dated April 14, 1980. Haris posed another question that when the JIT received answer to its MLA, did it show to Hussain Nawaz Sharif, who appeared before the JIT investigation? Zia said no, we didn’t.

At this NAB Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi strongly objected and said that the defence counsel could not ask questions about the co-accused in this matter. Kh Haris then posed another question that the JIT rejected the 25% share-sales agreement of April 14, 1980 but did the investigation team on its own investigate that what happened to the 25% shares and when those were sold? In reply, Wajid said that the JIT didn’t, but it declared the said agreement as ‘fake’ on the basis of money trail that the Sharif family submitted before the SC. Wajid, however, said that the JIT did not declare the 75% share-sales agreement of 1978 as fake and on the contrary, it presumed it to be correct. At this, Haris posed another question that as in 1978 Tariq Shafi sold 75% shares to Abdullah Kayed Ahli. Did the JIT ever investigate that where the 25% shares went? At this, Wajid replied that those were sold between 1978 and 1986 to clear 14 million Dirham liabilities of GSM. (It is to mention here that this discussion between Wajid Zia and the defence counsel was very much important because the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in its April 20 judgment, had raised a question that 25% shares of GSM were sold against 12 million Dirhams whereas the GSM had 14 million bank liabilities and as per Tariq Shafi statement, he handed over 12 million Dirhams to Qatari Royals in cash. The SC had raised the question that how liabilities were then cleared?)

Wajid Zia, in continuation of his statement, said that the money obtained from the 25% share-sale was invested in new businesses in Dubai that was owned by Mian Muhammad Sharif and operated by Tariq Shafi between 1980-81 and 1984. Regarding the sale of 25% shares of GSM, Haris addressing Wajid said that “you used a word ‘ostensibly’. That means you were not sure whether shares were sold between 1978 and 1986.”

At this Wajid said: “I used the word ostensibly as we don’t have documentary evidence and the only evidence we have is the share-sale agreement of April 14, 1980 that was proved fake.

“We concluded about the sale of shares from the fact that Tariq Shafi, that previously had defaulted on a loan of BCCI bank in 1986, he opened a new account and once again took loan and it was not possible that he could have got any loan without clearing the old one.” When this discussion was going on, NAB DPG Sardar Muzzaffar Abbasi objected that Haris was posing compound questions.

To this, Kh Haris strongly objected that he was being continuously interrupted and not allowed to question the witness. Haris retreated to his seat going away from the rostrum.

Another NAB prosecutor Afzal Qureshi then went to Haris and requested him to come back. Haris then posed a question that did JIT get documents from the BCCI to confirm that whether Tariq Shafi has paid the loan or the investigation team recorded statement of any bank official in this regard. To this, Wajid also replied in negative and said that they didn’t receive any document from Dubai that could reveal that Tariq Shafi deposited loan amount in the bank. The JIT, however, received document pertaining to the litigation between Tariq Shafi and the BCCI where a Dubai court had issued a decree against Tariq Shafi.

In response to another question, Zia clarified that these documents were not pertaining to the loans of 1978. To a question about the year of sale for 25% shares of GSM, Wajid said that only Tariq Shafi and Shahbaz Sharif had deposed before the JIT that the shares were sold in 1980 and no other witness told anything about it. The two also told the amount at which these were sold. While Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz in their concise statements had also mentioned about the amount, Zia said. He added that these shares were sold to Abdullah Kayed Ahli against 12 million Dirhams as per the 1980 agreement, but the JIT concluded that the 1980 agreement was fake. “We never investigated Ahli in this regard.”

Wajid said that as per Tariq Shafi’s affidavit, shares were sold against 12 million Dirhams, he then handed over cash to the representatives of Fahad bin Jasim in six months duration. During investigation, the JIT did not conclude that on which date 14 million Dirham loan was paid to BCCI bank. The JIT did not collect any evidence showing that who deposited the loan amount. It neither recorded statement of any banker nor any witness deposed before the JIT.

Responding to another question, Zia said that during investigation, the JIT also came to know about the site plan for Gulf Steel Mills in Dubai, but they never verified the document. Further hearing will continue on Wednesday. The accountability judge ruled that the court proceedings would be conducted on daily basis.

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