Documents received by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) via Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) requests do not mention Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz as beneficial owners of offshore companies Nielsen and Nescoll Ltd, but the Sharif family patriarch was the benamidar of the Avenfield apartments, the investigating officer (IO) of the Avenfield reference testified before an accountability court on Thursday.

Yesterday, the IO had testified that Nawaz bought the Avenfield properties via the offshore companies in question and was their owner while holding public office.

Today, while being cross-examined by the defence, he continued this line of argument, maintaining that Nawaz is the benamidar owner of the offshore companies.

He also said that Maryam and her brother Hussain were directors and shareholders of Hudaibiya Paper Mills, while their other brother, Hassan, was a shareholder.

He pointed out that the Avenfield properties were mentioned in a schedule attached with a UK high court order as being under the ownership of the Sharifs.

When questioned by Khawaja Harrris, Nawaz's counsel in the case, Dogar conceded that he had not attempted to meet Lawrence Radley, a partner at the Broomhead firm which oversaw the apartments' affairs.

Radley had, in an earlier hearing, written to the accountability court saying that he had acted on behalf of the owners of the properties, who had bought them through offshore companies.

He had also stated that instructions for their purchase had not been received from the Sharif family.

However, Dogar explained that since the London properties were bought through offshore companies — which are made to protect the original owner's identity — Radley's latter statement was deemed irrelevant as it did not disclose any new information.

Jeremy Freeman — a witness to the trust deed regarding the Avenfield properties submitted in the case — and his Freeman Box law firm were also not included in the investigations since that was not necessary after Radley's statement was taken into account, Dogar stated for the court.

He explained that multiple copies of the trust deed were presented to the joint investigation team probing the Sharif family's business dealings in the Panamagate case, and even the accused had not relied on the documents presented by Freeman.

Meanwhile, the prosecution and defence lawyers exchanged hot words over the witness's cross-examination.

A NAB director was also admonished by the accountability judge for whispering in the witness's ear, at which he promptly apologised.

The reference, now in its final stages, is among four filed by NAB against the Sharif family on the orders of the Supreme Court.

Proceedings will continue on Friday.

'Celestial beings' not as effective as they used to be

Speaking outside the accountability court, Nawaz, in his message for the World Press Freedom Day, said attempts to curb freedom of press are being made.

"We have always raised voice for freedom of speech and will continue to do so," he claimed.

He then went on to state that he has "a lot to say" regarding the 2014 sit-in spearheaded by the Paistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and that "certain facts" about it would soon come to light.

"'Celestial beings' are no more as effective [as they used to be]," he said in a veiled reference to the so-called establishment, adding that he had the support of the people.

"Despite everything, my party passed a law in parliament to get me elected as its president, but the law was struck down to remove me," Nawaz said. "Was it legal to remove me from party presidency?" he asked.

"All three pillars of the state have been occupied by a single person," he further alleged.

"Everything they say is aired, but our answers are hushed up," he said, without explaining who was doing the hushing up.

He also targeted the NAB chairman, saying that despite the watchdog's tall claims, the PML-N remains "its only target".

He also accused NAB of providing exemptions to corruption accused from Sindh.

Referring to the PPP's denial of a statement being attributed to party Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari in which he was reported to have said that he had been duped by Nawaz Sharif into giving a hard-hitting statement against the army, Nawaz today said that Zardari had backtracked after he (Nawaz Sharif) responded to him.

Accompanying her father, Maryam said that a "mere belief" of the investigating officer was turned into headlines in the case heard today, and that the PML-N, if elected to power, would put an end to political engineering by non-democratic forces for perpetuity.


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