Two UK-based witnesses record statements with accountability court against Nawaz, family

LHC Judge recuses from hearing Sharif's plea against Avenfield verdict

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court conducting corruption proceedings against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family recorded the statements of two new witnesses — forensic expert Robert Radley and solicitor Akhtar Raja — via video-link from UK.
The court was hearing the supplementary reference in the Avenfield case against Nawaz and his family.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, Investigation Director Amjad Majeed and the representatives of the accused were present at the Pakistan High Commission in London, where the recording took place and transmitted live to the court here. During the hearing, one of the witnesses Robert Radley said that he examined the possible change in the dates on the declaration papers of Nelson and Nescol.
During his testimony before the court, Radley said that the dates were changed on the pages two and three of the declaration.
Radley said that the page two and three of both the declarations seemed similar and it is hard to tell the fake from the original.
He explained that 2004 was changed into 2006 in the documents, adding that most likely ‘4’ was in place of ‘6’ in the year.
The documents had four stapler holes instead of two, said the witness, adding that it seemed that to change the documents the corner piece was opened.
He further said that he examined the typing font of the documents as well.
Calibri font — in which the documents were typed — was not present on a commercial basis until January 31, 2007.
Radley in his testimony said that the declaration could not have been prepared commercially before January 31, 2007.
Earlier, Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris objected to the presence of NAB officials in London.
The judge remarked that a representative of the accused was also present in court to maintain balance, to which Haris responded that the representatives were just there for observation.
Moreover, former head of the Panama case joint investigation team, Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Wajid Zia, was in court after having been summoned at the last hearing.
Ordering Nawaz’s disqualification in the Panama Papers case on July 28, 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file three references against the Sharif family and ordered the trial court to wrap up the proceedings in six months.
As the hearing of the case began in the morning, Nawaz, daughter Maryam, and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar appeared in court.
During the hearing, Nawaz’s counsel Ayesha Hamid pleaded that her client should be exempted from re-appearing today for the hearing of the Avenfield supplementary reference.
The judge asked the counsel to submit a written request in this regard with reasons.
Ruling on the request after the hearing, the judge allowed the exemption but ordered Capt (retd) Safdar to be present in court.
The counsel also argued against the Al Azizia and Flagship supplementary references filed by NAB recently. She claimed that there is nothing new in the supplementary references.
Hamid also pleaded the court to ask the monitoring judge of the case, Supreme Court Justice Ijazul Ahsan, to extend the six-month deadline, saying recording statements of 16 new witnesses will take time and should not be taken lightly.
The NAB prosecutor opposed the plea after which the judge reserved his decision and adjourned the hearing until 1:30pm.
At the last hearing of the case on February 13, Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir had rejected the suspects’ request to be exempted from appearance owing to a visit to London.
NAB had filed the supplementary Avenfield reference on January 22 this year.

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