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ISLAMABAD: Wajid Zia, the head of the investigation into former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family’s offshore assets, told an accountability court on Wednesday that his joint investigation team (JIT) did not receive “reliable data” with respect to cash flow from the Hill Metal Establishment (HME) in any financial period.

During cross-examination by Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris in the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Al-Azizia and HME reference, Mr Zia also admitted that the cash flow statement was never put to Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz when he was engaged in the investigation by the JIT, and the cash flow statement was not discussed in the JIT’s report either.

In response to his revelation about the absence of reliable data, Mr Haris drew the court’s attention to his question, wherein he said he asked about any data and not about reliable data. To this, Mr Zia said the JIT acquired HME’s financial statement through a source document.

The Al-Azizia and HME reference was filed against Sharif and his sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz; both have already been declared proclaimed offenders in the Avenfield apartments reference after they did not appear before court to face the reference.

Sharif’s counsel to continue cross-examining Wajid Zia on Aug 30

For the sixth time, Sharif was brought to the accountability court from Central Jail Adiala, where he, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Capt Mohammad Safdar are serving their sentences in the Avenfield apartments case. Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Maryam to seven and Safdar to one.

The first hour of the cross-examination was consumed by the arguments presented by Mr Haris and NAB prosecutor Wasiq Malik, when the latter objected to the first question post to Mr Zia: Was it correct that for the purpose of calculating net cash flow of a business in any given year where the net profit, loss or income has been ascertained, the value of non-cash items such as depreciation and amortisation for the relevant years are added to the amount of net profit, loss or income for the said year?

Mr Malik said the question was irrelevant; the JIT only discussed cash flow as one of the ingredients and whatever conclusions and findings were drawn were on the basis of available figures on HME’s net profits. Mr Haris argued that under the law, the defence counsel can ask about matters the witness did not disclose in his statement, and added that he was only asking relevant questions.

Before ruling that the objection was not sustainable, Judge Arshad Malik said the witness should answer the question according to his knowledge or the available record.

The judge adjourned proceedings until Aug 30, when Mr Haris will resume cross-examinations.

Meanwhile, Sharif on Wednesday stopped his lawyers from filing a petition with the court seeking an exemption from attending court proceedings on Thursday. He said he would rather listen to the defence counsel’s cross examination of Mr Zia than meet with relatives and party leaders in jail; these meetings are held on Thursday.

Sharif was brought to the court from Adiala under heavy protection. The armoured personnel vehicle he travelled in was given security cover by 18 vehicles of the police, Elite Force commandos and other law enforcement agencies.

He was taken back to the prison after the hearing.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2018