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ISLAMABAD: The Avenfield reference trial against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and members of his family has entered its final phase as the accountability court of Islamabad on Tuesday decided to issue questionnaires to the accused on Wednesday (today).

The court has decided to initiate the process under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in which the accused is given an opportunity to defend himself/herself before issuance of the final verdict.

Take a look: Avenfield House or ‘tax haven’ house?

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir will formulate questionnaires for Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar as an advanced intimation to their statements under Section 342 of the CrPC.

Head of the prosecution Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had requested the court that because all the prosecution witnesses in the Avenfield properties reference had testified before the court and had also been cross-examined, therefore it was necessary to proceed under Section 342 of the CrPC.

The counsel for the Sharif family, however, insisted that the court should initiate the process after recording of testimony of all the prosecution witnesses in the other two references, about Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment.

Accountability court decides to initiate process under Section 342 of CrPC

He pointed out that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Dec 4, 2017 had dismissed an application of Mr Sharif for joint trial and joint framing of charges in the three references. In the application, the counsel for Mr Sharif had expressed his apprehension that separate recording of statements in the three corruption references and cross-examination would expose their defence.

About this apprehension the IHC bench had said the petitioner could file an application with the trial court seeking joint cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses who were common in the three references.

Meanwhile, prosecution witness Wajid Zia, who was head of the Supreme Court-appointed joint investigation team (JIT), concluded his statement in the Al Azizia/Hill Metal Establish­ment (HME) reference.

Mr Zia testified that the total earnings of the Hill Metal Establishment (HME) from 2010 to 2015 were $9.9 million out of which Hussain Nawaz gifted $8.9m to Nawaz Sharif that is 88 per cent of profit of the HME. This showed that Mr Sharif was the significant beneficial owner of HME which was ostensibly owned by Hussain Nawaz but who was practically reduced to the status of Mr Sharif’s Benamidar.

The witness told the court that the JIT asked Mr Hussain to provide financial statements and other documents like articles of memorandum of association and details of loans of HME to justify that he was able to gift huge sums of money to his father, but he did not. This led the JIT to conclude that HME was not in a position to gift huge sums of money which was why Mr Hussain was concealing the financial statements and other documents. Mr Zia said there was no correlation between the profit/loss and the amount being sent by Mr Hussain to his father in 2010. In 2010 HME made a profit of about $588,000 whereas Mr Hussain in the same year sent $1.5m to his father.

Mr Zia said that in 2015 HME suffered a loss of $1.5m whereas Mr Hussain in the same year gifted $2.1m to his father.

Hassan Nawaz in his statement before the JIT had submitted that he received 800,000 Great Britain Pounds (GBP) from Hussain Nawaz and admitted that the amount was not justified through the record.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018