JIT head broke rules by hiring his cousin, argues Maryam’s counsel

ISLAMABAD: The counsel for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Capt Muhammad Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference has argued before the accountability court that Wajid Zia, head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) fromed by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case, had violated rules by hiring the services of his first cousin in the case.
Resuming his final arguments in the reference, Advocate Amjad Pervez said Mr Zia’s act of hiring his cousin, UK-based Solicitor Akhtar Riaz Raja, was the classic example of nepotism.
He said the apex court had in its May 5 order empowered the JIT to engage experts in the case. But, he added, the JIT had hired Mr Raja who was a solicitor and not an expert.
The defence counsel said Mr Raja took legal privilege when during the cross-examination he was asked to disclose his fee. But during his communication with Solicitor Jeremy Freeman — a witness to the trust deed regarding the Avenfield properties submitted in the case — he asked how much fee he had charged from Hussain Nawaz.

He said there was nothing on record why the services of a solicitor were required to send an email. Also there was no plausible explanation why Mr Radley could not be engaged directly or through the Foreign Office in the case.
The defence counsel argued that Mr Raja did not have any personal knowledge of the events and his commentary was mere an opinion. In addition, he said, it was an admitted fact that Mr Raja had congratulated Mr Zia following his appointment as the JIT head.
According to the defence counsel, Mr Raja’s CV (curriculum vitae) is not on the record to show what kind of expert he is and how many times he has been engaged in any high-profile or important case before being hired by the JIT in the Panama Papers case.
Advocate Pervez argued that the audio and video content produced before the court did not fulfil the criteria laid down in the law of evidence.
He claimed that the prosecution did not produce the authors and relevant witnesses to establish authenticity of the evidence.
The court adjourned the proceedings till Monday, while Mr Zia has been summoned on Tuesday.
The accountability court exempted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz from personal appearance.