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Questionnaire given to Nawaz Sharif-family to be heard on Monday

20 May, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The questionnaire prepared for members of the Sharif family by the accountability judge relies more on findings of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which had probed money laundering allegations in the Panama Papers case, and less on the investigation conducted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to connect the ex-prime minister and his family to the Avenfield properties.

Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir had prepared a questionnaire of 128 questions and handed it over to the counsel representing the Sharif family on May 16. The judge has asked ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar to respond to the questions in their statements which the court is scheduled to record on Monday (tomorrow).

Of the 128 questions on the questionnaire, 77 are directly related to findings shared in the JIT report. While hearing pleas filed against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders by their political rivals Imran Khan and Sheikh Rasheed, the Supreme Court had constituted a six-member team comprising representatives of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Military Intelligence (MI), NAB, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). Based on the report prepared by the JIT, the apex court had disqualified Mr Sharif from holding public office and directed NAB to file three references against his family and one against former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

The questionnaire prepared by the accountability judge carries 67 questions directly related to findings of the JIT report and the testimony provided by Wajid Zia, who had led the team; 10 of the questions are related to the testimonies offered by forensic expert Robert William Radley and Zia’s cousin Akhtar Riaz Raja. The remaining 51 questions are based on testimonies shared by the rest of the prosecution witnesses, including officials of the NAB, SECP and commercial banks.

Questions posed to the prime minister include one asking why there were anomalies in the affidavits signed by Tariq Shafi regarding investment of AED12 million.

Referring to the JIT report, the court pointed out that the establishment of Gulf Steel Mills (GSM) and then its sale had proceeded in two stages — at first 75pc shares of the GSM were sold to Ahli Steel Mills (ASM) and then later the Sharif family sold 25pc of the shares they had in the ASM.

The questionnaire asked for evidence showing that the AED12 million which Sharif family had acquired from the sale of 25pc shares of the ASM had been utilised to settle an outstanding debt of AED14 million. It also questioned the Sharif family’s investments with the Qatari royals.

It asked Maryam Nawaz about the trust deeds that Mr Radley had termed “forged”. Question 54 of the documents asks: It is evident that PW-14 Robert W Radley had compared the certified copies … and the typing armature and font have been considered and identified as Calibri, which was developed by VISTA Window Program, and it was not commercially available until January 31, 2007.

In Question 62, the court asked why Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani had avoided joining the proceedings with JIT. It also added that there was no transaction of AED12 million which Sharif family had claimed to have invested with the Qatari royal family.

The questionnaire included information which NAB Operations director general Zahir Shah had brought before the court, which included responses from the UK’s home ministry, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the FIA, and the UAE government to requests for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).

The court, in its concluding questions, which may play a decisive role in the trial proceeding, asked: “will you produce any evidence in defence?”

The same question was earlier posed to counsel for the Sharif family, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, by the apex court which was trying to examine the counsel’s request for additional time to conclude the reference.

Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir had also asked the same question but Advocate Haris had replied that the matter would be decided after conclusion of the testimony presented by Wajid Zia in all three references.

The Sharif family is likely to avoid answering questions related to UAE and UK properties and Qatari investment which, according to Advocate Haris, are identical in the three references.

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