SC says money trail of Sharifs’ London flats still shrouded in mystery
ISLAMABAD: Observing that money trail behind the purchase of the Sharif’s London flats still remained shrouded in mystery, the Supreme Court seized with the findings of the Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT) afforded the defendants another opportunity to come up with trail papers.
A three-judge apex court bench, comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Ijazul Ahsan, was hearing the objections of the PM’s lawyer to the JIT findings and adjourned the hearing till Wednesday (tomorrow).
Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that the court had repeatedly been asking one question for a year now to provide money trail of the London flats. One answer to that question will bring an end to this entire matter, he added.
“We again ask you to apprise us of the money trail,” snapped Justice Azmat Saeed while addressing the lawyer.
During hearing, the judges observed, “We have to examine material, not views of the JIT members.” Referring to the PM’s lawyer’s objections, the judges said, “You complain that the defendant was not given a fair hearing, but when questions about London flats’ ownership were put to him by the JIT his response was “I don’t know.”
“All defendants were given an opportunity to give answers, documents and trail papers of their properties,” they observed.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that facts were kept hidden from the JIT. When the PM was asked about the ownership of London flats, he feigned ignorance and said the flats ‘probably’ belonged to Hussain Nawaz. The judge further said that “We are telling you what the PM and his children stated before the JIT.”
In his arguments, PM’s lawyer Khawaja Harris Ahmed that the JIT recommended to reopen 15 cases against Sharifs, even though it was not mandated to recommend the opening of cases as some of them have already been decided by the courts.
These cases have not links with the ruling family’s flats in a posh London neighborhood, he added.
The lawyer told the judges that the JIT had exceeded its mandate and asked more than 15 questions instead of 13 set by the apex court.
Harris contended that the report was based on bias and political motivation and pleaded with judges to throw out it.
He said, the JIT members exceeded their jurisdiction and accused it of blatantly violating the mandate conferred on its members to seek Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) by engaging private firms, particularly the one belonging to a relative of the JIT head Wajid Zia.
“All the evidence collected by the JIT could not be used against any of the defendants for the purpose of evidence,” he added. He also raised objections to the composition of the JIT, more specifically the role of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) representative retired brigadier Muhammad Nauman Saeed.
PTI lawyer’s argument
Earlier putting forward his arguments, PTI lead counsel Naeem Bukhari, highlighted inconsistencies and contradictions in the statements of the Sharifs about their assets.
He said that the Qatari letter was a concocted story and added that the JIT wrote four letters to Qatari prince to record his statement but he failed. The probing team rejected the Qatari royal’s letter and held that it was unnecessary to record his testimony, he added.
When asked about authenticity of the documents with regard to Jeddah Steel Mills, Al-Azizia Steel Mills, and Hill Metals Establishment, PTI lawyer said these documents were not verified though they were considered accurate by the investigators.
He pleaded with the judges to summon the premier to cross examine him in light of the findings of the probe. He also pleaded with them to disqualify him for he had failed to defend allegations against him and his family.
Justice Azmat inquired as to how documents showing PM Nawaz Sharif owning an offshore company, Capital FZE, were acquired. Whether these documents were valid and acquired through a legal process, he asked.
To which, Bukhari replied that these documents were acquired through a legal aid. PM’s son Hussain Nawaz stated the company was dissolved in 2014 and no other family member was associated with it, he said and added, however, the documents proved otherwise as Mr Sharif was found to be chairman of the company’s board.
Justice Azmat observed that the documents showed the prime minister had been receiving remunerations, but not monthly salary.
“According to the documents, the salary of the premier was ten thousand riyals and these documents bore his signature,” argued Bukhari.”