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ISLAMABAD: Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head and star prosecution witness Wajid Zia testified before an accountability court on Thursday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had received last salary from the company of his son in August 2013.

During cross-examination in the Avenfield apartments reference, Mr Zia confirmed a document of Capital FZE — the company owned by Mr Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz — about disbursement of salary to the former premier. As per the document, which was in fact a screenshot, Mr Sharif and another person received salaries till August 2013. But it did not mention the name of any person to substantiate the JIT head’s claim. Salaries were disbursed to the two persons through over the counter (OTC) — a system in which salary is paid by hand to the recipient.

Mr Zia informed the court that since the document had been provided by the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) and prepared under the comprehensive system related to the protection of wages, it was treated as confirmed.

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However, the document contradicted the information provided by JAFZA to the JIT during investigation into the Panama Papers case. JAFZA’s letter stated that Mr Sharif was employed with Capital FZE as chairman of its board from Aug 7, 2006 to April 20, 2014.

When lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris asked if JIT members — Brigadier Kamran Khurshid of the Military Intelligence and Irfan Naeem Mangi of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — had collected any bank transaction regarding transfer of salary to Mr Sharif, Mr Zia said: “No evidence pertaining to any bank record which would show any amount of Capital FZE transferred to the account of Nawaz Sharif was collected by the JIT.”

In response to another question, the star witness said: “The JIT did not collect any receipt signed or executed for on behalf of Nawaz Sharif acknowledging acceptance of any salary from the Capital FZE.”

But he insisted that since JAFZA’s record was available, the JIT formed its opinion regarding employment and disbursement of salary to the former prime minister.

Mr Zia admitted that except for the ‘screenshot’ of the employment certificate that the JIT obtained from JAFZA, it had no other record that might prove that the salary was either transferred to the account of Mr Sharif or he had signed any receipts for the cash amount through OTC.

It is worth mentioning that a five-judge Supreme Court bench had on July 28 last year disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister for receiving salary from the Capital FZE.

On the other hand, Mr Sharif had been contending that he never received any salary and, therefore, it was not necessary for him to declare that income in the nomination forms.

Mr Zia testified that the screenshot employment certificate had a stamp on it which had no mention that the document was certified.

At this, Mr Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris pointed out that the document had a stamp, and not a seal. He informed the accountability court that the JIT did not write any application of mutual legal assistance (MLA) for getting documents pertaining to Capital FZE, rather got a ‘source’ document through law firm Guernica 37 International Chambers. After this a source document dated June 17, 2017 came under discussion, he said, arguing that a source document was not reliable unless corroborated.

Mr Zia said the JIT had hired Guernica 37 International Chambers that provided the investigation team with maximum source documents.

Mr Haris said some source documents didn’t have any stamp of the law firm.

Before the closing of Thursday’s proceedings, the JIT head moved an application stating that the privileged communication between the investigation team and Quist Solicitor — a law firm of Mr Zia’s first cousin hired for forensic analysis of documents — may be kept confidential.

The accountability court reserved its order on the application and adjourned the proceedings to Friday (today).

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2018