General

Court exempts Nawaz from today’s hearing of Al Azizia, Flagship supplementary references

The accountability court conducting corruption proceedings against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif began hearing the supplementary Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment Ltd references today.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed three interim corruption references against the Sharif family in September last year in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case. Recently, it filed supplementary references in all three cases. 
As the hearing went under way, the court was informed that Nawaz’s primary counsel, Khawaja Harris, is busy in the Supreme Court and will be able to join the accountability court proceedings by 11:30am.  
Nawaz’s secondary counsel Ayesha Hamid pleaded before Judge Mohammad Bashir that her client be exempted from appearing again. 
The NAB prosecutor opposed the plea, saying the accused needs to be present when witnesses record statements as per the law. 
However, the judge accepted the plea and adjourned the hearing until 11:30am when eight witnesses named in the supplementary references will record their statements.  
The corruption cases
The corruption references, filed against the Sharif family, pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, offshore companies including Flagship Investment Ltd, and Avenfield properties of London.
Nawaz and sons Hussain and Hasan are accused in all three references whereas his daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar are accused in the Avenfield reference only.
In the Al Azizia and Flagship supplementary references, submitted in court on February 14, NAB had included eight new witnesses, as well as new evidence, including details of offshore companies of Hasan and Hussain. 
The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.