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ISLAMABAD: The prosecution continued to advance final arguments in the Avenfield properties reference as the lead counsel for the Sharif family abstained from the proceedings of the accountability court for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.

Khawaja Haris, the counsel for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and Advocate Amjad Pervez, representing Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, have not been attending the proceedings since the prosecution started the final arguments on Tuesday.

On Monday, Mr Haris had expressed his disappointment when the court, while ignoring his suggestion for closing the prosecution evidence in all the references, including Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Inves­tments, and conducting the final arguments simultaneously, discontinued Panama­gate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia’s cross-examination in the Al-Azizia reference and opted for final arguments in the Avenfield reference.

The counsel left the courtroom in dismay saying that since the evidence in all three references was the same — the JIT report, documentation related to Gulf Steel Mills (GSM), Qatari investment and offshore companies — the defence would show its cards in the final arguments in the Avenfield reference.

He was of the view that since star witness Wajid Zia had to testify in the Flagship reference, there was a possibility that he would remove those lacunae which the defence might point out in the final arguments.

On Tuesday, the accountability court had dismissed an application filed by Mr Sharif seeking postponement of final arguments in the Avenfield reference till the closing of prosecution evidence in the remaining two cases.

Since the accountability court has started proceedings in three references against the ousted prime minister in September last year, the Sharif family has moved over two dozen applications seeking different relief from clubbing of the references to exemption from personal appearance. But accountability judge Mohammad Bashir has rejected all the pleas except two — post-arrest bail of Capt Safdar and deleting forgery charge against Maryam.

On Wednesday, the prosecution in the Avenfield properties reference claimed that the London apartments had been in possession of Hussain Nawaz since 1993, but he did not disclose its ownership until 2006.

Reading out an interview of Hassan Nawaz with a foreign media, additional deputy prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that Hassan confirmed that he started living in the Avenfield apartments in 1994 while his brother Hussain had been residing there since 1993.

He argued that the apartments were in fact owned by Hussain, Hassan and Maryam and they kept their ownership secret until a law was promulgated in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) that entailed penal consequences for keeping the ownership of properties hidden.

Mr Abbasi said that under the act enforced in 2006, the punishment for not disclosing the ownership of assets was two-year imprisonment with a fine of $20,000. As a result, the children of the former premier had to admit their ownership of the London properties, he pointed out. According to him, there was no document on record to show that the Qatari royal family had ever owned these apartments.

The prosecution alleged that the Sharif family always owned benami properties, adding that Tariq Shafi was also benamidar of Mian Sharif in the GSM. He claimed that the 1980 agreement, which specified the sale proceed of 25 per cent shares of the GSM, was fake.

It may be mentioned that as per stance of the Sharif family, with the sale of 25pc shares of the GSM, they generated 12 million dirham which they invested in the business of the Qatari royal family and the Avenfield apartments had been acquired from that amount.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2018