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Al-Azizia Reference: AC Rejects Postponement Plea

Islamabad (September 11, 2018): The NAB court on Tuesday rejected a postponement plea by the defence counsel in Al Azizia Steel Mills Reference Case against former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. 

As the hearing went under way today, the accountability court judge Arshad Malik noted that the Supreme Court has ordered the references to be closed in six weeks.

The legal assistant of defence counsel Sher Afghan Asadi apprised the accountability court that Khawaja Haris was unable to attend the hearing as he was attending the Islamabad High Court hearing of the petitions pertaining to suspension of the Avenfield verdict. The IHC has fixed today (Tuesday) and Wednesday for the case’s hearing, Asadi informed the court. Haris cannot appear before the accountability court as he was busy with preparing arguments for the IHC hearings, Asaid said.

“The IHC hears petitions [pertaining to the Avenfield verdict] on a daily basis,” Asaid said. To this, the judge noted that the accountability court also hears the corruption references on a daily basis.

National Accountability Bureau’s prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said the anti-graft body’s witness Wajid Zia was present for cross-examination.

Noting that the court had only four weeks till the Supreme Court’s deadline expires, the accountability judge refused the request to postpone the hearing till Thursday.  Al Azizia Steel Mills Hearing To Resume TodayEarlier on September  10, former PM, Nawaz Sharif was presented before an accountability court in Islamabad as it resumed hearing of Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference.

Accountability Judge Arshad Malik presided over the trial proceedings. Sharif was brought to the court from Adiala jail amid tight security.

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The former premier’s lawyer, Khawaja Haris, cross-examined star witness, Wajid Zia who had headed a joint investigation team that probed the Sharif family’s wealth on the directives of the top court.

During the course of cross-examination, Zia said there are certain documents on the record to show that the Hill Metal Establishment was a company.

The company’s service documents were solicited through a request under the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) on June 20, he added.

Earlier on September 07, the defence continued the cross-examination of prosecution witness Wajid Zia.

During the hearing, Zia read Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) documents from the sealed volume ten — obtained from the Supreme Court — to answer the defence lawyer’s questions.

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The NAB witness apprised the court that according to the documents, the Hill Metal Establishment is associated with the steel industry. He further said that Nawaz’s son Hussain appeared before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on June 3, after which, he was included in the probe.

Zia further said that neither did he write a letter to the Saudi government to verify the information provided by Hussain, nor confirmed the registration number of the company that the latter had provided.

According to the NAB witness, a few documents provided by Hussain were in Arabic. Haris then inquired if Zia could understand the language. To this, the latter responded in affirmative, stating that he had spent some time in the Kingdom hence he was somewhat acquainted with the language.Furthermore, Zia apprised the court that it was important to ascertain whether Hill Metal Establishment was a sole proprietorship or partnership. He also stated that this question was not specifically included in the MLA.

Earlier on September 06, the defence lawyer, Khawaja Haris, continued cross-examining the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) witness Wajid Zia — who also headed the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Panama Papers case.

Accountability Court II Judge Arshad Malik presided over the case.

As the hearing went under way, Zia apprised the court that the report under question was made on the basis of the financial statements that were not audited by Aldar Audit Bureau. “The JIT did not contact any officer of the Aldar Audit Bureau to obtain financial statements,” he said.“The Aldar audit report for Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain is from 2010-2014. Contact details of the person who has prepared the report are present in the document,” Zia told the court.

Haris then questioned Zia about the date when Hill Metal Establishment became operational. In response, the latter said he could only answer the question after looking at the record.

After the hearing was resumed, the defence lawyer continued to cross-question the prosecution witness regarding the Hill Metal Establishment.

During the proceedings, the NAB Prosecutor Wasiq Malik and Haris got into a heated debate.After the defence lawyer stopped Malik from interrupting, the NAB prosecutor responded by saying that he and his witness were talking to each other and not Haris.

Judge Malik then remarked that the prosecutor and his witness should step back when speaking to one another.

Background

The trial against the Sharif family commenced on September 14, 2017.

On July 6, after four extensions in the original six-month deadline to conclude all three cases, the court announced its verdict in the Avenfield reference.

Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, are accused in all three references whereas Maryam and Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only.The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.

On July 10, the Supreme Court granted another six-week extension for Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir to conclude the remaining corruption references against Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

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