Al Azizia case: Wajid Zia expected to conclude testimony today

ISLAMABAD: The prosecution’s star witness in the Al Azizia reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Wajid Zia, is expected to complete recording his statement in the accountability court today.

Zia, a Federal Investigation Agency additional director, headed the Panama case Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Sharif family’s assets last year.

He has already testified in the Avenfield properties reference.

Nawaz is present at the court of Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir, who has been hearing the high-profile case since September last year.

Decision on NAB plea to record accused’s statement reserved

As the hearing went under way, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi pleaded the court to record the statement of Nawaz and his family in the Avenfield case.

After Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris and Abbasi completed their arguments on the request, the court reserved its verdict on the plea.

Later, Zia resumed recording his statement.

Zia began recording his statement in the reference on Thursday.

At yesterday’s hearing, Zia informed the court of the JIT’s correspondence with the UAE government regarding the Gulf Steel Mills.
Nawaz and his family are facing three corruption cases—Al Azizia, Avenfield and Flagship— in the accountability court after NAB filed references against them in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case last year.
On Friday, Zia presented details of cheques given by the former premier to his daughter Maryam. On March 27, Nawaz gave Maryam a cheque of Rs40 million, on February 14 one of Rs5 million and a Rs37 million cheque on May 10, 2016, he stated.
On Wednesday, hearing the Avenfield reference, Judge Bashir had remarked that the decisions on all three references against the accused will be given together.

The corruption cases

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017 with a six-month deadline.
The corruption references, filed against the Sharifs, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.
NAB had earlier filed interim references in all three cases and later added supplementary references to them with new evidence and witnesses.
Nawaz and sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar are accused in the Avenfield reference only.
The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.
The court originally had a deadline of six months which ended in mid-March but was extended for two months after the judge requested the apex court.
Later, on May 9, the trial court’s second plea for a deadline extension was approved by the Supreme Court which gave a month to both sides to finish the corruption cases.