ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday deferred the hearing of Maryam Nawaz’s appeal against her conviction in Avenfield case on the request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). 

A division bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani conducted hearing of the appeals filed by Maryam Nawaz and Captain (Retd) Muhammad Safdar against their conviction in corruption reference and adjourned the proceedings after the NAB told that its prosecutor Barrister Usman Ghani was ill. 

In this regard, the NAB submitted an application before the court stating that since yesterday, the prosecutor had a “high-grade fever with excruciating body aches and pains” and was experiencing a “loss of smell and taste.” He added that therefore, he was advised to quarantine and “observe bed rest.” 

The prosecutor continued that therefore, he was “unable to travel, personally attend and assist” the court on this date of hearing. He prayed to the bench that it may adjourn this case to some other date.  The bench accepted NAB’s request for adjournment and deferred the hearing till January 18. 

Pakistan Muslim League-N’s Vice President Maryam Nawaz, Captain Safdar, Junaid Safdar and PML-N party leaders were also present in the court. Maryam’s lawyer Irfan Qadir Advocate and NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi also appeared before the court. 

Previously, the IHC bench had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to reply the questions raised regarding the establishment of the beneficial ownership of PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz in the Avenfield apartments case. 

The bench had also said that the primary onus is on the NAB to prove that Maryam is the beneficial owner. Justice Aamer said that they cannot hold anyone responsible on public perception, which might be true, but this is a criminal case, wherein, you have to establish case through evidence. 

He asked NAB’s attorney to give independent evidence for establishing Maryam Nawaz’s ownership of the Avenfield apartments. The bench also questioned how the burden was shifted to Maryam – who denied ownership as she is a trusty – when the principal accused, Nawaz Sharif, was the one who could not explain the source of the funds. 

Justice Kayani asked that why the NAB could not obtain bearer certificates from the accused’s family to establish beneficial ownership of the London apartments. He added that the NAB is convicting someone solely on the basis of a letter, which was sent by a foreign lawyer and does not have substantial value. 

Justice Kayani maintained that the primary accusation against Maryam Nawaz was ill-gotten wealth, hence the source of funds were to be established.  The judge continued that the NAB prosecutor has to provide evidence regarding the real owner of the company to satisfy the court.  Justice Kayani questioned the company’s ownership and trust deed. To this, the prosecutor said that Maryam Nawaz had hidden the facts regarding the company’s ownership. He added that Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain Safdar had established offshore companies and hid the facts. The offshore companies of Maryam Nawaz had been exposed after the Panama Papers leak, he said. 

The judge remarked that the properties were not coming under the ownership of Maryam Nawaz but of a company. He questioned whether Maryam Nawaz had accepted the company ownership. 

The prosecutor said that Maryam Nawaz had rejected the ownership of the company but admitted to being a trustee. The court also raised a question regarding the registration of the companies in the British Virgin Islands and proofs of their beneficiary owner from the Sharif family. 

The prosecutor said that both companies were registered and their documents are present. The judge remarked that the letter regarding the companies could not be considered as evidence. The judge maintained that it is not a civil case but a criminal case. The NAB prosecutor would have to prove the beneficiary owner of the company. 

Justice Aamer remarked that it is a case of two lines as the prosecution would have to prove the ownership and then the beneficiary owner and trustee. The NAB prosecutor said that the documents had proved the beneficiary ownership of Maryam Nawaz.