In the age of information technology, intelligence agencies and cyber experts create tunnels to get into systems for data and information collection. In simple words, this is called hacking. Cyber pirates also use this invasive system for crimes, extortion and edging out competitors.

This simile is important to understand in the context of Panama.

In view of legal and anti-corruption experts, the Avenfield Flats is a tunnel that leads to uncovering corruption committed by Sharifs. The volume and network of this corruption is massive and beyond what is already known through Supreme Court documents. If the Sharifs do not manage to evade the accountability trial, they will be convicted, opening flood gates to uncovering corruption including the Hudaibya. 

Ironically, this tunnel has not been made by any hacker or intelligence agency. Rather, it is a creation of the Sharifs; provided through lies, fake documents, affidavits, tampering and Calibri. In due course, the additional evidence shuts all loopholes and is likely to provide a base from where more corruption cases against the Sharifs will kick off. So confident were the Sharifs of having shaped an environment over thirty years, they never realised that everything could collapse like a house of cards or a fortress built on sand.

Avenfield Flats Case is a criminal case filed in the Accountability Court by National Accountability Bureau based on the evidence collected by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar (Retired) are accused.

In addition to evidence provided by JIT, NAB spent six months collecting evidence and filed a supplementary reference with the accountability court. This is based on fresh and incriminating evidence collected by NAB investigators from abroad that includes United Kingdom and countries in the Middle East. 

JIT had presented evidence through multiple documents and witnesses that Maryam Safdar beyond doubt is the owner of Avenfield Flats and the documents filed by the Sharifs were fake and manipulated. Captain Safdar (Retired) had signed these fake documents also known as ‘Calibri’ as a witness. These documents do not corroborate with any part of the proven trail documents. The Qatari letter was a wild card that has no connection with proven trails. Crucial to the arguments and evidence provided by Sharifs is the financial health of Gulf Steel Mills Dubai. 

The Sharifs had connected profit proceeds of Gulf Steel Mills Dubai to establish a link with the Al-Thani family of Qatar. A belated letter was also produced signed by a Qatari prince of Al Thani family. The prince evaded investigations. NAB investigators in interactions with Dubai regulators and authorities have found conclusive evidence that Gulf Steel during the period was a sick and under debt unit. It never had assets to park money with the Al Thani family. Hypothetically, even if it is true, the transactions raise questions of violating laws of Dubai government and therefore criminal in nature. This new evidence is irrefutable and to prove innocence, the Sharifs will have to challenge the government of Dubai. 

NAB investigators also visited UK to verify the ownership of Avenfield Flats with the assistance of British officials and records. All facts prove that Sharifs are owners of these properties since the 90s. Therefore, if trails and evidence provided by JIT and NAB is taken into cognizance by British authorities, Avenfield Flats make Sharifs liable to criminal offences in British Courts. To prove innocence, Sharifs will have to face British judicial system with irrefutable evidence against facts provided by Pakistan, Dubai, Amnesty International and British records. 

To complicate matters, new laws in the same spirit as National Accountability Ordinance of Pakistan have come into force in UK. The onus of proof is on the accused. Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) is enforced wef 31 January 2018. Under the new law meant to crack corruption and haul corrupt people using Britain as a safe haven, individuals can be fined and jailed if they make misleading statements. Reuters reports that according to Transparency International, (an international anti-corruption and pressure group), London has long been seen as a favoured destination for parking corruption. 

To complicate matters, Amnesty International has also collected money trails to Avenfield Flats and listed it amongst the top five frauds by corrupt politicians of the third world to park proceeds in UK. It describes Nawaz Sharif as the prime owner of the four Avenfield House flats worth at least eight million pounds.  It also noted that the four properties were owned by two companies registered in the BVI: Nescoll Limited and Nielsen Limited.

This turn of events sets new pathways while fresh evidence spells disaster for the Sharifs. The Dubai evidence, UWO of UK, recommendations of Transparency International and records lying in Dubai and UK combine to make a close and shut case in a water tight compartment. It is curtains on Sharifs but it is not over. In all likelihood Sharifs could attempt a Houdini act to disappear like Ishaq Dar.

Sharifs still have the power and connections in Pakistan to manipulate cases and events in their favour. 

Ever since the Panama verdict, they began a vicious propaganda against the judiciary and armed forces. The blitz was led by the trio of father, daughter and son in law. Minions like Nehal Hashmi, Talal Chaudary, Danyal Aziz, Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Rana Sanaullah also joined the chorus. The aim is to show defiance and shape public opinion and shape environments for chaos. 

Desperate times need desperate measures. Captain Safdar misused his privilege as an MNA to move a motion to summon Wajid Zia the head of JIT to be made answerable to Parliament for making false allegations against elected Parliamentarians. Belatedly, better sense prevailed over the speaker of the National Assembly. 

The trio also appealed in the Islamabad High Court against appearance of witnesses through video links. The Islamabad High Court rejected the appeal and ruled that under the law, accused has a right to be present and cross examine witnesses even if it is a video link.

But Sharifs are weary of this video link?

There are two main witnesses. Mr Raja conducted a forensic audit of London properties and now has more evidence. Mr. Radley, is the forensic examiner of Calibri fame. Over the course of six months, Mr Radey has conducted further forensics regarding the false documents submitted by Sharifs. 

The forged documents have already proved to be amateurish. The testimonies of the two witnesses will be damning and technical in nature. The evidence will be conclusive. The ability of the defence lawyer and three accused will be limited in opening cracks in the evidence. A burrow dug by Sharifs has become an invasive tunnel. 

The Sharifs have only two arsenals at their disposal to play the Houdini Act. 

Exploiting lacunae, they will delay proceedings. But justice could be delayed but not denied. 

Secondly, like Ishaq Dar, they could run away. But surely Dubai, Saudi Arabia and UK will not be their destinations. 

To prevent this escape Chairman NAB and Monitoring Judge of the Supreme Court should ensure that the three accused are put on Exit Control forthwith. The Supreme Court should also direct Civil Aviation Authority to monitor all private flights out of Pakistan. 

Keep fingers crossed.

Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) is enforced Wed 31 January 2018. Under the new law meant to crack corruption and haul corrupt people using Britain as a safe haven, individuals can be fined and jailed if they make misleading statements.