Islamabad (July 06, 2018): The Avenfield reference pertains to the Park Lane apartments (flats 16, 16-A, 17 and 17-A Avenfield House, Park Lane, London, United Kingdom), of the Sharif family and includes former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his three children, and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar as accused.
Here is a timeline of all the important developments during the trial.
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On September 08, 2017, The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) submitted four interim references against the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar before the accountability court. Amid tight security, cartons full of documents from the NAB regional offices were ushered into the Islamabad Accountability Court amid much media hype as the Supreme Court’s deadline expires today.
On October 19, 2017, Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar were indicted in the Avenfield properties.
The accountability court hearing corruption cases against the Sharif family indicted the three accused after dismissing their separate pleas to suspend proceedings and halt their indictment.
Nawaz, through his representative Zafir Khan, Maryam and Safdar rejected the charges by pleading ‘not guilty’ and vowed to contest the case. The charges state that the 2006 trust deed of the London properties is fake as it used the Calibri font before it was made publicly available while the accused also submitted bogus documents in the Supreme Court.
Later, as the court resumed hearing the case, Nawaz was indicted in the Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment reference against him.
On December 04, 2017, NAB court issued an order declaring sons of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Hussain and Hasan Nawaz, as proclaimed offenders.
The Nawaz brothers were declared proclaimed offenders in three NAB references.
NAB also presented a report in court regarding property owned by the brothers, which stated that the accountability bureau did not find any property in the country owned by them. According to NAB section 502, witnesses will also now record their statements in the case.
The accountability court further ordered the authorities to present the accused before the court when they are arrested.
On January 22, 2018, The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed in the accountability court on Monday a supplementary reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and four others in the Avenfield properties case.
NAB informed the judge that the new supplementary reference which has fresh pieces of evidence against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader includes seven new prosecution witnesses, including two from the United Kingdom. Forensic expert Robert Radley and a close relative of Panama case Joint Investigative Team head, Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia, will be the witnesses in the case, while two other witnesses are affiliated with the Ministry of Information.
NAB informed that it has taken the initial statement from the witnesses based in the UK.
The apex anti-corruption watchdog said that one of the witnesses belongs to a private media channel, while two others work under NAB.
On January 30, 2018, Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris objected to NAB’s filing of a supplementary reference in the Avenfield case, arguing that there is nothing new in the supplementary reference.
He pleaded the court not to accept the supplementary reference as it is not per the Supreme Court’s directives. The court then reserved its verdict on the suspects’ pleas. Announcing its verdict later, the judge rejected the plea and accepted the supplementary reference.
On February 2018, The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court on Friday concluded recording the statement of forensic expert Robert Radley who had a day earlier admitted that the Calibri font was available in a limited scale in 2005.
Radley told the court he wanted to change his statement and was informed that his statement had been recorded a day earlier and now he was to be examined.While being examined by Khawaja Haris, Radley said he only received the documents on July 6, 2017, and had he not been pressed for time, he would have been able to submit a ten-times more detailed report.
On March 07, 2018, The Supreme Court ordered a two-month extension in the deadline for concluding the corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.
Moreover, the court also extended the deadline by three months of the assets accumulation case against former finance minister Senator Ishaq Dar.
On July 28 last year, the Supreme Court had disqualified Nawaz and given a six-month deadline to the accountability court to complete the trial against the Sharif family. Similarly, the court had ordered proceedings against Dar with the same deadline. NAB officials informed the court that two months are needed in the Dar case whereas more than one month would be required to complete the Sharif family cases.
On March 15, 2018, As the hearing resumed, Maryam’s counsel Amjaz Pervez and the prosecutor argued over the defence’s plea to not make the entire JIT report part of the court record.
The judge, after a short recess, partially approved the plea and ordered that the JIT report’s analysis and the statements of witnesses it recorded will not be made part of court record.
On April 17, 2018, Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez resumed his cross-examination of Wajid Zia, an additional director at the Federal Investigation Agency who headed the Panama case joint investigation team (JIT) which probed the Sharif family’s assets last year.
Zia informed the court about the various correspondence of the JIT with regards to the London flats. Later, Pervez concluded his cross-examination of the ‘star witness’.
On May 07, 2018, The last prosecution witness in the Avenfield properties reference against former premier Nawaz Sharif and his family concluded his testimony in the accountability court.
National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) investigation officer Imran Dogar was cross-examined by Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez.
During his cross-examination, Dogar informed the court of NAB’s procedure of inquiries and investigations, as well as lodging of references in court.Moreover, he informed the court that the interim investigation report of the Avenfield case was prepared on September 6 last year.
Dogar also stated that he had no role in the work of the Panama Papers case Joint Investigation Team.
On May 23, 2018, Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, while recording his statement for the third consecutive day in Avenfield reference, remarked that challenges and pressure increased as soon as the treason case was initiated against former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
The former premier said that once the proceedings started against Musharraf he had gauged that it would be hard to get the former military ruler convicted. “All the weapons are made for politicians,” Nawaz remarked. “When Musharraf left for the court in 2014 he directly went to the hospital as it was decided from before. Musharraf pretended to be sick and avoided the case hearings,” Nawaz said, adding the judges failed to send Musharraf behind bars for even one hour.
Nawaz, while recording his statement in the last five of the 128 questions asked by the accountability court, said that an intelligence agency officer had conveyed to him that he should resign or he would be sent on an extended leave.
“The purpose of the message was to question how dare I initiate an inquiry against Musharraf,” Nawaz said. The three-time premier also remarked that he was asked to make the parliament endorse the second martial law by Musharraf. “The message was conveyed to me by Asif Ali Zardari. However, I refused to do it.”This is the conclusion of my actual crime, he added.
“If only you could summon the souls of Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto and ask them what happened,” he said, adding “If only all PMs could be summoned and asked why weren’t they allowed to complete their constitutional tenure?
“The sole purpose of the 2014 sit-ins was to pressurise me. PTV, parliament, PM House, President House none of them were safe from the plans of the elements causing unrest. Those who were making those plans thought I would be pressurised,” he added.
On May 24, 2018, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz denied being the beneficial owner of London flats and offshore companies Nielsen and Nescoll while recording her statement in Avenfield reference.The Avenfield reference, pertaining to the Sharif family’s London properties, is among three filed against the Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last year on the Supreme Court’s directives.
Maryam remarked that she never took any financial advantage from these companies. Moreover, she shared that she has nothing to do with 25% shares of Gulf Steel Mills, Al-Taufiq case, and settlement worth Rs12 million.
Maryam said that the Capital FZE documents don’t concern her, adding that the documents were submitted with ‘despicable purposes’.
On May 30, 2018, Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar, while recording his statement in the Avenfield reference against the Sharif family, remarked that he is being targeted and dragged into the case to pressurise Nawaz. He claimed that the joint investigation team’s (JIT) decision to include him in the references despite not being named in Supreme Court’s April 20 judgement showed that the JIT’s “intentions are malafide”.
On June 07, 2018, An accountability court resumed hearing National Accountability Bureau Deputy Prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi concluding arguments in the Avenfield reference against the Sharif family on third consecutive hearing.
Abbasi remarked that Nawaz and his family hid their ownership through offshore companies. “Nawaz Sharif is the actual owner of the London flats,” he said, adding that there are no records to show that bearers shares were transferred from Prince Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani to Hussain Nawaz.Regardless, the Joint Investigation Team, which was formed to probe Nawaz’s assets following apex court verdict, tried to record the statement of the Qatari prince. The NAB prosecutor denied the allegations that the Qatari prince was threatened.
On June 10, 2018, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar directed the accountability court to announce decision on all three corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family within a month.
A two-member bench headed by the chief justice was hearing the petition seeking further extension for the conclusion of trails against Nawaz and his family with regard to corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after apex court’s verdict in Panama Papers case.During the hearing, the chief justice rejected Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris’ petition for completing the trial in six weeks, observing that final verdict against the former premier, his sons, daughter, and son-in-law should be announced within a month.
However, the top judge remarked, Nawaz along with his daughter could go to see his ailing wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz.
On June 11, 2018, Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s legal counsel Khawaja Haris on Monday recused himself from representing the former prime minister in the corruption references filed by NAB against the Sharif family.
On Sunday, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisarhad directed the accountability court to announce its verdict on all three corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family within a month. On June 20, 2018, Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s legal counsel Khawaja Haris asserted that his client never owned the London flats.
Nawaz hasn’t accepted ownership of anything, remarked Haris as the hearing went under way in the court of Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir. “London flats are not in the name of Nawaz.”
He further said that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. “Here the prosecution has put the burden of the proof on the defence”.“Nawaz’s ownership was never proven. If the ownership had been proven only then we could have discussed the supposed difference between income and assets,” he added.
On June 27, 2018, Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris, while concluding his final arguments in the Avenfield properties reference against the Sharif family said the prosecution failed to prove that Nawaz Sharif’s children were dependent on the former premier.
During the hearing, Haris said the prosecution failed to prove that Nawaz’s children were dependent on him, noting that the Panama case joint investigation team (JIT) head Wajid Zia also said that there was no evidence of the dependence of Nawaz’s children on him.
The defence counsel said that Zia also admitted that Mian Sharif gave pocket money to Nawaz’s children.He said that his client did not need to defend himself, adding, “Prove just one thing against us and then we would present our defence.”
Haris, in his concluding arguments, said that it was a case of acquittal for no testimony had been presented in it.
Prior to that, the defence lawyer read the content of the NAB notice sent to Nawaz on August 18, 2017, in the court. He informed the court that his client had never refused to respond to a NAB notice.
The notice asked his client to appear for verification of the statement given to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Panama Papers case, Haris informed the court. He added that Nawaz had given a statement to the investigation team in his defence.
“We did not tell the NAB that we did not want to respond to the notice,” the lawyer contended, adding that the first notice sent by the anti-graft body was to inquire the accused of their defence.Furthermore, Nawaz’s lawyer informed the court that a detailed response to the notice had been sent to the NAB.
“Why were we being asked for defence [by the NAB]?” Haris asked the court. He said that the anti-graft body had not conducted an investigation.
The prosecution itself admitted that there was no option available for filing a reference, he said.
On July 03, 2018, The accountability court, hearing the Avenfield reference against the Sharif family, has reserved its verdict in the case, which will be announced on July 6(today).
Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases in the accountability court after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed references against them in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case last year.The accountability court resumed hearing the case on Tuesday, where Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retd) Safdar’s counsel presented his final arguments.