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April 21, 2018

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Avenfield, Flagship references: AC accepts NAB’s plea to place additional evidence

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir Friday accepted the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) application to place additional documentary evidence in Avenfield apartments and Flagship corruption references against the Sharif family.

The NAB prosecutor told AC that they have received response of their mutual legal assistance (MLA) application from the UK authorities that is pertaining to the ownership of Avenfield properties and Flagship investment companies. The prosecutor said that these are the documents that the accused concealed.

On the contrary, Maryam and Nawaz’s counsel Amjad Pervez said that some to the documents are already attached and exhibited and others are neither notarised nor certified and just photocopies. “The NAB received these documents on March 20 and for almost a month they withheld these documents which are mockery of justice,” Amjad Pervez said.

As per the NAB prosecution, the NAB Director General Operations International Cooperation Wing (ICW) Zahir Shah received these documents and he would record his testimony in this matter also. The court directed Zahir Shah to record his statement on Monday, April 23, when the JIT chief Wajid Zia also will record his statement in Al Azizia corruption reference.

Meanwhile, the AC dismissed applications of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz seeking exemption of seven days from personal appearance before the court due to the ailment of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. Both had been seeking exemption starting from April 20. The AC dismissed their applications for seven days exemptions but accepted their exemption applications for Friday and said that the accused could also file applications on next date of hearing if they may not be able to appear before the court. However, Captain Safdar appeared before the court.

During Friday’s proceedings, the NAB Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi presented arguments in the prosecution’s application filed under Section 540 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to place additional evidence and record before the court.

The DPG said the Ministry of Law and Justice had issued a notification conferring powers of Section 21 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO-1999) to the JIT regarding mutual legal assistance from foreign jurisdiction. On May 21, 2017, the JIT had written MLAs to the UK authorities, and reply has been received. “The documents we received are relevant to the charge and have direct bearing on the case,” he said, adding that the new documentary evidence pertains to the record of land registry, utility bills, council tax and tax statement.

“Before that the NAB had also written a letter to the UK authorities for change of jurisdiction apprising them that from now the matter is being dealt by the NAB instead of the JIT so they may be corresponding with the Bureau. Recently, the ICW of the NAB received replies of the MLAs that the JIT had written,” the DPG added. He said that any court at any stage could summon a person whose evidence appears to be relevant and essential. He said this is not a civil suit that all documents are necessary to be attached prior to filing of the case. He cited many precedents where different courts allowed placing additional material after the evidence was closed.

Amjad Pervez argued that the NAB applications are manifestation of mala fide intent. He said the main Avenfield corruption reference was filed in September 2017 while supplementary reference on January 18, 2018. Amjad Pervez said now when all the prosecution witnesses have exhausted and only statement of the investigation officer is being left in Avenfield case, the prosecution wants to bring more evidence on record. He said the prosecution alleges that the defendants are causing delay in adjudication of these references. As a matter of fact, he said, the prosecutors are causing delay.

Referring to the DPG’s arguments that the NAB’s ICW received these documents, Amjad Pervez said that the July 28 Supreme Court judgment had directed the JIT, and not NAB, to initiate the MLAs.

Amjad Pervez said that in case any new evidence is being collected, there is a mechanism to place it before the court. He said a seizure memo is being prepared, and statements under Section 161 are recorded and then the material after approval of the competent authority is placed before a court. “In this matter all the mechanisms are missing,” he said.

Amjad Pervez also pointed out cuttings on different papers where some parts of the record are being blackened with ink. Further hearing will be held on April 23.

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