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ISLAMABAD: Concluding final arguments in the third and last reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed told the accountability court on Monday that Mr Sharif was not a formal employee of Capital FZE.

The Flagship Investment reference is the third reference prepared by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the Supreme Court’s directive.

The apex court had in its July 28 judgement directed NAB to file three references — Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment — against the former premier.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6 convicted Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield Properties reference.

The remaining two references were transferred to another accountability court headed by judge Mohammad Arshad Malik.

Defence counsel concludes arguments in Flagship Investment reference

Judge Malik heard the final arguments in the Al-Azizia reference.

The SC has directed the accountability court to conclude the proceedings and announce the verdict in both the references by Dec 24.

During Monday’s hearing, Khawaja Haris told the court that Mr Sharif was not a regular or formal employee of Capital FZE since his son Hussain Nawaz had issued his appointment letter as chairman of the Capital FZE board in 2006 after the former premier applied for a visa of the United Arab Emirates.

He said Mr Sharif needed a valid iqama in order to travel to the UAE and for this reason his son had appointed him chairman of the Capital FZE board.

The counsel argued that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the SC to probe the Panama Papers case had not asked any question about the company when he appeared before it to record his statement.

He told the accountability judge that Mr Sharif did not hide his employment with Capital FZE from the apex court during the hearing of the Panama Papers case.

It may be mentioned that the SC had in the July 28 judgement disqualified Mr Sharif from holding a public office for the reason that the former premier did not declare his un-withdrawn salary from Capital FZE in his assets declaration form.

In response to a question by the judge as to “how Nawaz Sharif [got] inducted in the company”, Khawaja Haris said that “Capital FZE was a one-man sort of company and his son appointed him chairman of the board committee to enable him to travel the UAE”.

When asked “was there any board to which Nawaz Sharif was heading and is there any resolution from the board to appoint him as chairman”, the counsel said that since it was an informal appointment, there was no resolution at all. There was no board in fact. Mr Sharif was appointed chairman, but later on his post was amended as chairman of the Capital FZE board and this amendment was made with a pen on his employment contract, he added.

Cash flow chart

Khawaja Haris argued that star prosecution witness Wajid Zia produced a cash flow chart and admitted that he was not its author. “Wajid Zia told the court that data entry operators in the JIT prepared this cash flow chart, but he did not disclose their identities for security reason,” the defence counsel said, adding that no official from the Federal Board of Revenue was summoned by the JIT to verify the cash flow chart.

He argued that Mr Sharif’s sons, Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, were running their respective businesses in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia and that they were never involved in any wrongdoing.

The defence counsel said that both Hussain and Hassan Nawaz were dependent upon their grandfather, Mian Mohammad Sharif, and even Mr Sharif’s son-in-law Mr Safdar was used to get pocket money from Mian Sharif while he was living in Saudi Arabia.

After Khawaja Haris concluded his arguments, judge Arshad Malik directed the prosecution to start final arguments from Tuesday (today).

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2018