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Avenfield reference: Nawaz is ‘Benamidar’ owner of flats, says NAB

By Faisal Kamal Pasha
June 06, 2018


ISLAMABAD: NAB Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) Sardar Muzzaffar Abbasi told an accountability court on Tuesday that Avenfield apartments had been owned by the Sharif family since 1993.

These were ‘Benamidar’ properties of Nawaz Sharif, as his children had no independent sources of income when these properties were acquired, the DAP said while extending his closing arguments in the corruption reference.

Earlier, Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir dismissed another application by Nawaz Sharif for suspending closing arguments in the Avenfield apartments reference till conclusion of evidence in all three references. The judge told the counsel for the Sharif family that they could move the Lahore High Court if they had any objection to arguments in the case.

The NAB deputy prosecutor general argued that the defence had only taken the plea that the cases, filed against them, had not been proven as the evidence was not admissible. He stated that the properties remained in possession of the Sharif family through bearer shares certificates and in such a case, it was impossible to trace the real owner. But in 2006, a law was enacted regarding offshore companies of British Virgin Island. Under the new law, now the properties had to be declared and bearer shares certificates to register. Only then the accused were forced to disclose ownership of the properties, the DPG said. The trust deed that Hussain Nawaz prepared was, in fact, a will as per opinion of the Gilead Cooper law firm, DPG said.

Defence stated that the JIT did not let the Qatari prince record his statement by putting stringent conditions on him, in such a case the accused could have produced the prince in the court for recording his statement, the DPG added. They, however, did not produce any evidence in support of their contentions and the onus of proof lied on them.

The NAB DPG said that the accused also not opted for appearing before the court as witnesses as they feared cross-examination.

The DPG said the prosecution, in the said reference, produced 18 witnesses and did not give up a single witness. In start of the case, the accused were issued summons asking them to join investigation with NAB, but they did not do so and also not produced any evidence in their favour.

The prosecution has already rebutted their defence that they had taken before the JIT and Supreme Court and now the cases are under trial at this court, he said. The DPG said that under Qanoon-e-Shahadat, if a person is accused of travelling without ticket in a train, onus of proof lies on him to produce the ticket to claim his innocence. This is a case of assets beyond means. Now the accused have to prove their means. The story of 12 million dirham investment with Qatari Royal family had been proven wrong and now the accused have to establish how they acquired the flats, he added.

Earlier, at the start of the proceedings, a junior counsel attached with Khwaja Haris, Saad Hashmi Advocate extended arguments in an application for suspension of closing evidence. He said the court twice held that the three references would be decided simultaneously; once in November 2017, second time in March 2018, and later on the Islamabad High Court also upheld the decision. Now the trial and high court decisions had been merged into each other and the court could not retract from the same.

Advocate Hashmi, while referring to Islamabad High Court decision, stated that it was noted in the said decision that in case there were similar witnesses in the three references, a witness could be examined at a single time so that he might not be able to improve his statement when he appear the next time to reply the same allegations.

As per that order, Wajid Zia had to record his statement in all three corruption references first, but the court, by putting in his ongoing cross-examination in Al-Azizia, directed the defence to record statements of the accused in Avenfield apartments reference under Section 342 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

He said that the prosecution was creating a misconception that the defence was only in the form of a witness. We have presented our defence in our statements under Section 342 and we told the court that there was no case made out against them as nothing had been produced against them.

In reply, the NAB DPG said that there was no precedent at all that a case was at its final stages and the defence was not ready to extend the final arguments.

To this Advocate Hashmi said that the prosecution was relying only on a single witness, i.e. Wajid Zia and they got nothing else but the JIT report. The DPG would continue with his arguments on Wednesday.