ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) star prosecution witness in references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said on Monday that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) did not convene a formal meeting to deliberate on the Qatari letter.

During cross-examination in the Al-Azizia reference, Wajid Zia, who headed the JIT constituted by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case, said the investigation team did not convene any exclusive or formal meeting to discuss the letter written by Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani.

In his letter to the JIT on June 11 last year, the Qatari prince offered that the investigation team might meet him at his Doha palace or a questionnaire be sent to get the required information.

“Did the JIT take that letter seriously?” asked Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Mr Sharif.

“Of course, the JIT took it seriously,” Mr Zia said. However, when Mr Haris asked why the JIT did not convene any meeting to discuss the Qatari prince’s offer, Mr Zia said that since the JIT members used to meet every day at the secretariat at the Federal Judicial Academy, they discussed the letter as a routine matter. He said the JIT in principle decided against sending any questionnaire to any of the witnesses. He, however, said the JIT did not annex this decision in any of the 10 volumes of its report.

When Mr Haris asked if there was any provision in the Police Rules that barred sending a questionnaire to any witness, Mr Zia expressed his ignorance about the rules. However, he said the FIA and NAB used to send questionnaire to witnesses in selected cases.

The defence counsel reminded Mr Zia that the JIT had sent a questionnaire to UK-based solicitor Jeremy Freeman, seeking his opinion on the veracity of two trust deeds related to offshore companies Coomber, Nelson and Nescol.

Mr Zia told the court that in his entire 29-year police service, he had never sent an advance questionnaire to either an accused or a prosecution witness.

Contrary to this, Mr Zia had on Friday admitted before the court that Jeremy Freeman of the UK-based law firm Freeman Box, who had certified the Coomber, Nelson and Nescol trust deeds in 2006, was sent a questionnaire in advance to know about the veracity of the trust deeds. Mr Freeman had on Feb 4, 2006 signed the two documents as witness.

The proceedings in the Al-Azizia reference were adjourned till Tuesday.

Earlier, former PM Sharif was produced before the accountability court amid tight security.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2018