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Cannot say when Hill Metal was established, Wajid Zia informs court.

Byline: Rizwan Shehzad

ISLAMABAD -- The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head on Thursday admitted before an accountability court, conducting the trial of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif that JIT did not know when the Hill Metal Establishment (HME) was set-up and if it was a company, partnership concern or sole proprietorship.

JIT head Wajid Zia admitted that he has never investigated any case involving any commercial transaction or relating to any company, partnership or sole proprietorship. He also admitted his lack of knowledge about tax laws that were applicable in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and in Pakistan saying he was not an expert on the subject.

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'HME, as per the record provided, was not set-up till 2006 as per CMA 432/2017,' Zia said while answering to Shairf's counsel Khawaja Haris' questions during cross examination in National Accountability Bureau (NAB)'s Al-Azizia and HME reference.

'JIT could not confirm this fact therefore; I cannot say factually when HME was set-up.' Shairf's son, Hussain Nawaz, who along with his brother Hassan Nawaz, is also named as accused in the reference had submitted CMA before the Supreme Court during Panama papers proceedings.

Zia revealed that the information available in the CMA with respect to the year of setting up of HME was the only information available with the JIT at the time a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) request was sent.

He said that it is correct that on the basis of this information, it was not possible for there to be any annual audited accounts of HME for the years 2000-2005, as sought through MLA. He voluntarily explained that JIT was intending to preclude any possibility of any earlier date of set up of HME, hence period 2000-2005 was inserted in the MLA.

Zia conceded that JIT had sent only one MLA to KSA authorities on May 31 2017, and no information was provided to the JIT in its response. He conceded that JIT has never seen the annual returns which may have been filed by HME with the concerned authorities in KSA.

'I have never investigated any case involving any commercial transaction or relating to any company, partnership or sole proprietorship. It is correct that during JIT investigation one of the issues was whether HME was a company, partnership concern or sole proprietorship,' he admitted.

In addition, it emerged during cross examination that the steel mill which was operating in KSA prior to the setting up of the HME was referred by the JIT in the MLA as 'Al Azizia Steel Mills'.

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At one point, Zia admitted that he cannot answer the question as to whether in KSA there are different laws for fillings of annual returns by companies, partnership concerns and sole proprietorships, as he is not an expert on KSA annual returns/fillings.

Similarly, he said, he cannot answer the question as to whether in KSA there are different laws for filings of income tax returns by companies, partnership concerns and sole proprietorship, not being an expert on KSA tax laws/fillings.

'I cannot say whether even in Pakistan laws and requirements for fillings of annual returns and tax returns are different for companies, partnership concerns and sole proprietorships,' he replied to Haris' question. Also, he said, he cannot say about what are the requirements for filling of annual returns and tax returns in KSA with respect to companies, partnership concerns and sole proprietorships.

Regarding the Aldar Audit Bureau report, pertaining to HME's statement of cash, balances and net profits after tax for the years 2010 to 2015, Zia said that it came to JIT's notice that the report was prepared on the basis of the financial statements which were not at all audited by Aldar Audit Bureau themselves.

While answering Haris' questions, Zia said that it is correct that the report was annexed by Hussain Nawaz with the CMA pertaining to the financial years 2010 to 2014, and complete particulars, address, telephone fax numbers and email address of the bureau, name of the person who prepared it were mention but JIT made no effort to contact any person at Aldar Audit Bureau to obtain financial statements.

During cross examination, Zia told the court he worked in the economic crime wing (ECW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for two years was associated in supervisory capacity in the headquarters and did not investigate any thing.

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'I did not directly deal with any commercial case in my supervisory capacity. My role in dealing indirectly with commercial cases was to ensure that the inquiry and the cases are completed within the stipulated time frame, to respond to any correspondence requiring assistance of the headquarters.

To the question if he being the director ECW FIA was he not supposed to know that there were different laws governing the setting up of companies, partnership firms and sole proprietorships, Zia replied he was not supposed to know such details and he was not subject specialist on all laws governing the ECW.
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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Sep 7, 2018
Words:939
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