ISLAMABAD: The last prosecution witness in the Avenfield properties reference on Wednesday testified before the accountability court that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was found to be benamidar (fictitious owner) of four London flats during investigation.

“On the basis of the documents acquired [during investigation], we concluded that the apartments have been in possession of Mr Sharif and his children since 1993 when he was holding public office,” said Investigating Officer Mohammad Imran.

The witness further testified that Maryam Nawaz had produced “fake trust deeds” with regard to the ownership of two offshore companies before the apex court.

Forensic expert Robert Radley in his report had termed the trust deed fake, the investigating officer said.

He added that the report of Mr Radley explained that the document prepared in Calibri font was signed in February 2006 when this font had not been launched.

The IO told the defence counsel for the Sharif family, Khawaja Haris, during cross-examination that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) director general had been authorised by the competent authority in an executive board meeting to conduct investigations and proceed further in accordance with the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.

Testifies that trust deeds about the offshore companies ownership produced by Maryam before the court were ‘fake’

However, the counsel argued that the SC in its judgement had directed NAB to “prepare and file reference” before the accountability court and that according to him did not mean “fresh investigations” into the matter.

When the counsel for Mr Sharif asked the IO whether or not he was under obligation to comply with the SC direction, the investigating officer said NAB had been directed to prepare the reference and it did comply with the order by investigating the matter further and filing the reference before the accountability court.

The IO said the investigation had been given to him after the director general of NAB, Lahore, had authorised it under Section 18-C of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.

Recording the testimony before Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court, the IO recalled that he collected relevant record from the apex court as well as the report of Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT). For investigation, Mr Imran said, he called various persons including members of the Sharif family, their relatives and family friends.

He said NAB director general (operations) Zahir Shah had handed over the UK home office response to the requests for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) to him. The documents received from the UK Central Authority through MLA included the record of land registry, register of the title for the four Avenfield flats, copies of utility bills and payment of taxes.

Besides collecting relevant material from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and NAB, the IO said he also obtained transcripts of TV interviews and copies of speeches delivered by the Sharif family members.

The witness further testified that Maryam Nawaz had produced “fake trust deeds” with regard to the ownership of offshore companies, Nielson and Nescoll, before the apex court. According to the witness, forensic expert Mr Radley in his report termed the “trust deed fake”, saying that the document prepared in Calibri font was signed in February 2006 when this font was not commercially launched.

However, Mr Radley during the cross-examination said the font existed in February 2006 and there were three ways of downloading Calibri font before its formal launch in January 2007.

Later, the accountability court adjourned further proceeding till Thursday (today).

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2018

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