ISLAMABAD: Panamagate joint investigation team (JIT) head Wajid Zia on Tuesday concluded his testimony in the Avenfield apartments reference against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.

Surprisingly, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) issued a press release about what Mr Zia testified inside the accountability court.

The Supreme Court, while deciding petitions moved by PTI chairman Imran Khan and others, had disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister in the Panama Papers case and directed the National Accountability Bureau to file references against the Sharif family in the accountability court.

The press release issued by the PTI’s media wing claimed: “Maryam Nawaz submitted 22 documents to the JIT and, according to a forensic report, all the documents were proved to be fake… prosecution witness and Panamagate joint investigation team head Wajid Zia testifies in the accountability court that each and every paper and deed submitted by Maryam Nawaz in her defence during the probe was forged.”

PTI issues press release about what Wajid Zia testifies inside accountability court

During the proceedings, Mr Zia submitted as evidence three letters — which were previously not allowed to be exhibited by the accountability court because they were presented following the submission of the final JIT report to the apex court — and requested the court to entertain these letters.

One of the three documents dated June 19, 2017 was an authorisation letter on mutual legal assistance (MLA) from the Attorney General of Pakistan addressing Mr Zia to make a request for the MLA to attorney general’s chamber in the Virgin Islands.

The second letter dated July 4, 2017 was from attorney general’s chamber, the government of the Virgin Islands, addressing the JIT head in connection with the MLA request. The final letter dated July 17, 2017 was a reply by Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani addressing the JIT head in connection with the Panama Papers case proceedings. It was received directly by the apex court.

Mr Zia said Hussain, Hassan and Maryam Nawaz had submitted replies in different applications to the apex court. “The apartments were purchased by Qatari royals through BVI companies and were transferred as settlement of share-bearing companies to representatives of Hussain,” he added.

The JIT head said the response comprised two trust deeds — one for the two BVI companies i.e. Nelson and Nescol and the other for Coomber. The documents were signed by Maryam as trustee, Hussain as beneficiary and Safdar as witness, he added.

Amjad Pervaiz, the counsel for the Sharif family, objected to this, saying the prosecution was relying on non-admissible content taken from the applications filed by the Sharif family in the Supreme Court.

According to Mr Zia, 2006 was a pivotal year because of the change in legislation as the BVI Companies Act 2004 came into effect where the share-bearer had to be deposited to a custodian by 2006. “It was no longer possible for the shareholder to remain anonymous,” he said.

In his statement, Mr Zia said the Sharif family had furnished the documents to mislead the apex court.

Objecting to the claim, Mr Pervaiz said the JIT head was presenting an opinion as he was not a witness to the documents.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2018

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