Sunday April 14, 2024

Avenfield Apartments case: Hiring kin as witness classic example of nepotism, AC told

By Faisal Kamal Pasha
June 30, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Forwarding final arguments in the Avenfield Apartments corruption case in the accountability court, legal counsel for Maryam Nawaz and Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar, Amjad Pervez advocate Friday said the hiring of first cousin by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia was a classic example of nepotism.

He said Akhtar Riaz Raja of Quist Solicitor was not an impartial witness but an interested witness which was evident from the tenor of his statement and selection of words like “Frankenstein version of forgeries etc.

He said Raja was hired for mainly three purposes: first, he wrote an email to Jeremy Freeman for confirmation of Nielsen, Nescoll and Coomber group trust deeds; second, he hired Robert Radley as forensic expert; and third he wrote a commentary about Avenfield properties that was based on an article published in Dawn newspaper.”

Amjad said the Supreme Court had directed in its May 5, 2017 order that the JIT could hire a local or foreign expert for facilitation in Panama case probe. He said by hiring a solicitor in London, the JIT misused its mandate. It is beyond comprehension why the services of solicitor were required when the JIT could directly hire a forensic expert.

“Further, when it was required to write commentary based on an article of a newspaper, anyone in Pakistan and even my junior counsel could do that,” advocate Pervez said. He said Raja never came across the order of Justice Queen's bench division in Al-Towfeek case against Hudabiya paper mill.

He had no personal knowledge of the matter and his commentary was just an opinion. During cross-examination, when Raja was questioned about the amount of fee for his services, he said it was privileged communication. On the contrary, he in his email to Jeremy Freeman had inquired about the fee he’d received from Hussain Nawaz.

About the statement of Robert Radley, Amjad Pervez said the first test for a witness's testimony was his truthfulness. Radley, however, failed that test and his testimony is also uncorroborated with any evidence that is necessary under the law.

Talking about advocate Mazhar Raza Bangash who while representing a law firm had served Justice Queen's Bench division London order on members of Sharif family in Pakistan and also appeared before AC as a witness, Maryam's counsel said he in his statement denied his statement being recorded by the JIT. Also the order of Justice Queen's bench is a photocopy and hence inadmissible.

The order of Justice Queen's bench was also irrelevant to the charge framed against his clients as there was no mention of Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz. Such an order may be brought on evidence but it has to pass the test of law of evidence first that it did not.

The said order is based on two witness statements of Shezi Nackvi whereas Shezi Nackvi never appeared before this court and the two witness statements he had recorded before Justice Queen's Bench in October and November 1999 were also not before this court.

In his two witness statements, Nackvi had told Justice Queen's Bench that his statement was based on a report of Rehman Malik whom the JIT had declared a liar. Further, even the director general (DG) Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) also did not own the statement of Rehman Malik and importantly when there was government of a military dictator General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf.

As per order of Justice Queen's Bench, late Mian Muhammad Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and late Abbas Sharif had beneficial interest in Avenfield properties. No matter howsoever you define beneficial interest, Nawaz Sharif and his children do not come in it and it strengthens the version of Nawaz Sharif that his father used to take care of the financial matter concerning the family.

Contrary to this, the prosecution had been pressing that the Avenfield apartments were in possession of Nawaz Sharif since 1993, Amjad Pervez said. Talking about the video and audio clips of Nawaz Sharif and his children where they in interviews to different channel had talked about the Avenfield properties, he said an audio/video clip or a clipping of a newspaper could not become part of court proceedings and there was a certain mechanism for it.

He also cited case laws in this regard. He said the audio clip of Maryam Nawaz in Sana Bucha's program 'Lekin' was not admissible for the reason that the person who recorded the clip and prepared transcript had not been produced before this court for testimony.

Even if we accept admissibility of clip, Maryam Nawaz has denied ownership of the flats in that sound bite. During proceedings, there was an exchange of harsh words between Amjad Pervez and NAB's Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi.

Muzaffar Abbasi alleged the defense for causing delay in the adjudication of this corruption reference. At this, Amjad Pervez said the prosecution was responsible for the delay. When witness statements were about to complete, they brought a supplementary reference and then filed an application under Section 540 of Criminal Procedure Code for additional evidence.

We are not responsible for the delay and we kept working till 8pm in this court. Advocate Saad Hashmi, an associate of Khawaja Haris submitted before the court that they had got a new medical certificate of Kulsoom Nawaz but that was a scanned copy.

On Monday, they will submit a notarized copy of the same for exemption of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz from personal appearance. The court then put off proceedings till Monday when Amjad Pervez would continue with his final arguments and on Tuesday Wajid Zia will appear before the court for cross-examination in Al-Azizia corruption reference.