An accountability court in Islamabad on Tuesday rejected the Sharifs' objections to the supplementary reference that was filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) earlier this month in connection with the Avenfield properties reference against the Sharifs.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had reserved the verdict after hearing arguments presented by the NAB prosecutor general and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's lawyer. The court decided that the supplementary reference would be made part of the record in the Avenfield flats case.

The former premier, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Captain Muhammad Safdar were present in court for today's hearing.

"NAB's investigations are ongoing and will continue until the court announces its verdict," the prosecutor general told the bench during the hearing.

He added that the bureau will request the court to include in the record any further evidence if it is discovered.

He said that the supplementary reference was filed before the trial court in connection with the London properties reference as new evidence had come forward. The supplementary reference ─ which names Nawaz, three of his children and Safdar ─ was filed after NAB investigators obtained additional evidence under the mutual legal assistance (MLA).

"There was no need to file a supplementary reference in order to include new evidence in the record," Nawaz's lawyer, Advocate Khawaja Harris, had argued. He added that the evidence could have been included on the record through a request to the court and called on NAB to clarify why there was a need to file a supplementary reference.

"NAB did not find any new information under the MLA," he had said in the morning, adding that NAB should have pointed out what was new in the supplementary reference. "The allegations have been repeated in the supplementary reference."

Advocate Harris maintained the new reference is not in keeping with the SC's Panama Papers order.

As he requested the court not to accept the bureau's reference, NAB's prosecutor general argued that it is not against the law to file a supplementary reference.

"The supplementary reference should be considered to be additional evidence," Judge Bashir told the lawyers.

Maryam's lawyer raises objections

During the hearing, Advocate Amjad Pervez, the lawyer representing Maryam and her husband, had also raised objections against the supplementary reference.

"A completely different story has been presented in the supplementary reference," the advocate said. "First, it was said that the London property is owned by the Sharifs. Now, the supplementary reference focuses only on Nawaz."

"The supplementary reference does not say anything about Maryam Nawaz being the beneficial owner of the properties."

He recalled that NAB had filed an application in the Islamabad High Court challenging the accountability court's decision to delete the charge of producing forged documents in Calibri font from the charge sheets filed against Maryam and Safdar. Advocate Pervez added that the bureau had later withdrawn its application from the IHC.

Read more: We asked the creator of Calibri to weigh in on the JIT debate

Maryam faces the charge of producing before the SC an alleged forged trust deed scripted in Calibri font which, according to the Panama Joint Investigation Team’s report, was not available in the market when the deed was prepared in 2006. The trust deed was also signed by her husband Safdar as a witness.

Advocate Pervez said that the the new reference was not "supplementary", but a different reference in the eyes of the law.

After the accountability court rejected the Sharifs' objections to the supplementary reference, NAB requested the court to allow two of its witness in the reference ─ Robert W. Radley, an expert of the Radley Forensic Document Laboratory and Raja Akhtar ─ to record their testimonies via video link as they are both in the UK. The court is expected to hear arguments regarding this from the lawyers on February 6.

Before today's hearing was adjourned, the trial court summoned five more witnesses to appear in court on February 6.

NAB references

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court on July 28 had directed NAB to file references against Sharif and his children in the accountability court within six weeks. The trial court was ordered to complete proceedings within six months.

The Supreme Court also assigned Justice Ijazul Ahsan a supervisory role to monitor the progress of the accountability court proceedings.

NAB had filed three references on Sept 8 against Sharif and his family, and another reference against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The three references against the Sharif family are related to the Flagship Investment Ltd, the Avenfield (London) properties and Jeddah-based Al-Azizia Company and Hill Metal Establishment.

The former premier and his sons, Hassan and Hussain, have been named in all three NAB references, while Maryam and husband Safdar have been named only in the Avenfield reference.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the accountability court has reserved its verdict in the Avenfield Flats reference against the Sharifs. In fact, the court reserved its verdict on a supplementary reference that was filed by the National Accountability Bureau in connection to the Avenfield Flats reference. The error is regretted.

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