ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) supreme leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif seeking a simultaneous decision on three references filed against him in the accountability court and postponement of final arguments in the Avenfield properties case.
As per the judgement of an IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, the petition has become infructuous since the lead defence counsel has already started final arguments in the Avenfield reference.
Referring to the arguments of defence counsel Amjad Pervez and additional deputy prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, the verdict said that since the final arguments by the defence counsel were already “under way” and likely to be concluded soon, the plea to stop them had become infructuous.
Accountability court told ex-PM’s name is not mentioned in evidence produced by prosecution
The petition had contended that since evidence in all three references was similar, the defence of the accused would be exposed if the final arguments in one of the references were recorded before closure of evidence.
Mr Pervez argued that the prosecution had relied on five of the 10 volumes of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report in the three references whereas the entire prosecution case revolved around the Gulf Steel Mills, its sale proceed, investment with the Qatari royal family and settlement of the invested amount.
He said the accountability court had in its written order in November last year given a commitment that the common witnesses would be testified together and the verdict in all three references would be announced simultaneously to avoid inconsistency.
The NAB prosecutor informed the court that after filing the petition in the IHC for postponement of the final arguments in the Avenfield reference, the lead defence counsel had refused to advance final arguments, but now the proceedings were in progress in the accountability court.
Accountability court’s proceedings
Lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris told the accountability court on Friday that the name of Nawaz Sharif had not been mentioned even in one of the 81 pieces of evidence produced by the prosecution in the Avenfield properties reference.
He argued that the documents of Capital FZE, the company owned by former prime minister’s son Hussain Nawaz, did not relate to the Avenfield reference in any manner. According to the counsel, the money trail — sale proceeds of the Gulf Steel Mills, investment with the Qatari royal family and settlement for the Avenfield apartments — did not mention any role of Mr Sharif.
Advocate Haris said that neither Tariq Shafi, who testified before the JIT that investigated corruption allegations in the Panama Papers case, nor any other witness had linked the ex-premier with the London properties, he adding that even JIT head Wajid Zia had admitted that the JIT could not get any direct evidence against Mr Sharif regarding ownership of the London apartments.
About the Queen’s Court 1999 order in a case related to Al-Tawfeek Investment and Hudaibia Engineering Limited, he said it had never mentioned that the loan was obtained after pledging the Avenfield apartments.
Moreover, Advocate Haris argued, neither the JIT nor the NAB investigation team had recorded the statements of witnesses, lawyer of Al-Tawfeek Investment Shezi Nackvi and the solicitors whose opinions were incorporated in the JIT report to establish allegations against the Sharif family.
When accountability judge Mohammad Bashir asked the counsel if he would continue arguments on Saturday, he said that due to some other commitments it was not possible for him to attend the proceedings on weekly holiday.
Subsequently, the judge adjourned the hearing till Monday.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2018