ISLAMABAD - The star prosecution witness and head of the Joint Investigation Team Wajid Zia on Thursday testified before the accountability court that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was not the owner but a shareholder of Al-Azizia Steel Mills.

He appeared before the trial court for cross-examination in the Al-Azizia reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the Sharif family where he admitted that he did not come across any document during the investigation which showed that Sharif was the owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mills.

Replying to a query as to how the JIT reached to the conclusion that Sharif was a shareholder of the mills, Zia referred to statements of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif which they had recorded before the JIT last year during the two-month-long probe on the Panama Papers case.

To substantiate his claim, he read out a quote of Shahbaz Sharif in which he had admitted that there were three shnareholders namely, Hussain Nawaz, Rabia Shahbaz [Shahbaz’s daughter] and Abbas Sharif of Al-Azizia Steel Mills.

Zia further said that the former premiers himself confirmed that fact as well. Wajid Zia maintained that according to him, the real owner of Al-Azizia Steel Mills was Nawaz but it was being operated by his son Hussain. Zia stressed that Hussain was, in fact, representing Nawaz Sharif in the shareholding. He, however, admitted that there was no evidence that could prove the former premier was the owner of the mills nor has any witness recorded any statement with the JIT in this regard.

“There was no proof with the JIT that Sharif ever sent any amount for setting up Al-Azizia Mills or received anything from the sale proceeds of the said mills,” he responded on a question asked by lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed.

He further admitted that Sharif never personally operated Al-Azizia Steel Mills and that the JIT could not obtain any record related to the ownership of the mills.

Meanwhile, while referring to a bank statement according to which Hussain Nawaz sent his father an amount worth US$1.1 million as a ‘gift’ from July 5, 2010, to June 30, 2011, Zia remarked: “It is true that the dollars sent to Nawaz were a gift from his son,”

“Nawaz should have declared the amount in the wealth statement for 2010-2011,” Zia added.

Defence counsel Khawaja Haris asked Zia questions related to the wealth statement and transactions in the bank accounts of Sharif.

NAB Prosecutor Wasiq Malik remarked that there was no need to compare the bank statement with tax record, adding “our case is different”.

Zia, who is appearing before the court of Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir, has already recorded his statement in both Avenfield and Al-Azizia references against the Sharif family. The proceeding in the case was adjourned till Friday.