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ISLAMABAD/LONDON: A team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reached London on Tuesday night to meet with the Home Office officials in relation to the Avenfield flats owned by Hasan and Hussain Nawaz in a clear suggestion that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was unable to produce any actionable evidence during its London probe against the Sharif family unlike the media hype that went on for several months.
A source in the NAB said that Sultan Nazir and Imran Dogar will be investigating the Avenfield apartments but earlier the JIT had clearly suggested that it had collected necessary “evidence” after hiring JIT head Wajid Zia’s cousin Akhtar Raja’s law firm Quist Solicitors. The NAB source couldn’t comment.
The JIT’s lawyers in London – Akhtar Raja and Toby Cadman – had written several letters to the Home Office seeking Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) in relation to British national Hasan Nawaz Sharif, who has lived in London for over two decades, and Hussain Nawaz Sharif, who lives mainly between London and Saudi Arabia and whose wife and children are British national.
The JIT’s lawyers had filed these requests through a formal international Letter of Request (LOR). In a story published in The News, Ansar Abbasi had revealed, quoting a letter by the Home Office, that the UK govt had agreed to provide MLA to the NAB in relation to Hussain Nawaz Sharif and that the National Crime Agency (NCA) will provide assistance too.
A source in Home Office said it was in touch with Pakistani authorities over a “Mutual Legal Assistance” request, without naming the individual involved. The source said it could not comment on the specifics of the case but said that such requests are a “routine matter”.
When the NCA was contacted for its version whether it was investigating Hussain Nawaz in relation to any wrongdoing, a source said there was no investigation underway as “there’s no criminal case being investigated”.
It’s understood that at least five banks, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Home Office had told Pakistani authorities during the JIT probe that it had no concern in relation to the business matters of Hasan and Nawaz Sharif and that all the transactions made from and to his account were done through legal means and no concern were ever raised by the anti-money laundering units working and overseeing transactions in international banks.
While the JIT’s lawyers from London passed to Pakistani authorities as evidence the publicly available record of Hasan and Hussain Nawaz’s business deals – involving in most cases, buying and selling of properties in central London – nothing illegal was found at the time either by the JIT of its team of lawyers in London. In most of the papers that are available with the NAB, Hasan and Hussain Nawaz are seen as running their real estate business jointly.
The JIT’s lawyers were told by the Home Office that they needed to file the MLA requests correctly which were filed after the disqualification of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Iqama. It’s understood that Pakistan has written to the Home Office to obtain assistance in the investigation currently underway in Pakistan.
The NAB has said through sources that its team has gone to London to investigate the properties held by the Sharif family in the UK but it has not explained how exactly it will be done when all due diligence must have been carried out by the banks and land registry departments involved in purchase and sale of properties under English laws.
A source told that the NAB team has not yet contacted Hasan and Hussain Nawaz for interviews. A NAB source in Islamabad told The News that NAB team proceeded for London after the authorities concerned in the UK allowed investigators to record statement of key witnesses in Avenfield Properties corruption case.
Deputy Director Sultan Nazeer, who is case officer in Avenfield Reference, and Imran Dogar who is investigation officer in the said reference, will also meet officials of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Home Office and other officials concerned in London, added the officials.
The Islamabad NAB Court No-I is hearing the said reference against Sharifs’ family. The visiting team will record statement of two key witnesses related to the Sharif family’s Avenfield flats 16, 16-A, 17, 17-A, Avenfield House, Park Lane, London, revealed an official at NAB Bureau Lahore.
The investigators further say that they will record statement of Mr Ashley who is associated with the legal wing of CPS. “He [Mr Ashley] is the main who acquired Sharifs’ property record in the UK,” claimed one of NAB officials who is associated with this case in Lahore.
The team is expected to meet officials of Pakistan Embassy in the UK who will facilitate both the NAB officials.” NAB has already declared proclaimed offenders to Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz on not appearing before the trial court in this case.
The NAB has filed four corruption references against the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar related to their Avenfield properties, multiple companies that include Flagship Investments, Hartstone properties, Que Holdings, Quaint, Flagship Securities, Quint Gloucester Place, Quint Paddington, Flagship Developments, Alanna Services (BVI), Quint Eaton Place 2, Quint Saloane, Lankin SA (BVI), Chadron, Ansbacher, Coomber and Capital FZE, Dubai, Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals.
Originally published in The News