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Testimony of Panama Papers JIT head in Dar’s trial postponed until Feb 8 – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The testimony of a star witness in the trial of former finance minister Ishaq Dar – Joint Investigation Team head Wajid Zia – will not be recorded before Feb 8, as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) asked the accountability court on Wednesday to requisition the relevant material from the Supreme Court before recording Mr Zia’s statement.

NAB prosecutor Imran Shafique filed an application before accountability judge Mohammad Bashir stating that 26 out of 30 witnesses have already recorded their statements in the NAB reference against Mr Dar, and the head of the JIT constituted by the SC to investigate former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family would be the prosecution’s next witness.

The application was filed to procure files – which contain around 6,000 pages – from the SC, and apparently delayed Mr Zia’s testimony, as the trial court would otherwise have recorded his statement his week.

Sources in the investigation said the bureau may file a supplementary reference against Mr Dar during this period.

NAB may file supplementary reference against former finance minister, sources say

NAB moved the application when Judge Bashir asked them to bring the witness to the witness box. After the application was filed, the judge postponed the matter until Feb 8.

The judge also said that if Mr Zia does not appear before the court, it would issue a summons for him.

In its July 28, 2017 verdict, the SC directed NAB to file four references – three against Mr Sharif and one against Mr Dar – in the accountability court, and also empowered NAB to file supplementary references.

NAB recently filed a supplementary reference against Mr Sharif in the Avenfield apartments reference, and another related to Flagship Investment and 16 other companies is reportedly under process.

In the application requesting the requisition of the JIT report submitted by Mr Zia to the SC, along with the entire set of volumes, Mr Shafique said the JIT constituted to investigate the Panama Papers leaks had collected voluminous materials, recorded numerous statements and prepared an exhaustive report that it submitted before the court.

He added that the JIT report is part of the reference against Mr Dar, as the SC had directed that they prepare and file references on the basis of evidence collected by the JIT.

He said Mr Zia was a witness in the reference, but the evidence and the JIT’s original report – along with its entire set of volumes – was with the SC.

“JIT report has to be tendered in evidence of [prosecution witness] Mr Wajid Zia being mandatory requirement of law,” he added.

Therefore, he said, “it is in the interest of justice that the original JIT report may please be requisitioned from the Registrar office” of the SC.

He added that the JIT report was the most important and essential document prepared and signed by Mr Zia, and bringing it to the record would promote the ends of justice for determination of the reference.

He prayed the court would accept the application.

Also on Wednesday, the accountability court recorded the statements of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Additional Joint Registrar Salman Saeed, who testified about companies owned by Mr Dar and his family. Further proceedings have been adjourned until Feb 8.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2018

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