- Justice Ahsan says SC not bound to implement JIT findings
- Ruling party asks for JIT report’s Vol-X to be made available
- PTI requests Nawaz Sharif to come to court for questioning
the Supreme Court resumed hearing the Panama Papers case on Monday, Minister for Finance Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar and the Sharif family’s lawyers submitted separate objections to the final report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed allegations of money laundering against the ruling family.
A three-member bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, took up the case after nearly two months. In the objections, the Sharif family and the finance minister rejected the JIT report and argued that the team had exceeded its mandate.
The bench heard arguments from lawyers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Awami Muslim League (AML). During his statements before the judges, PTI lead counsel Naeem Bukhari requested that Nawaz Sharif should be asked to come to the court for questioning.
Adjourning the hearing, the judges directed PML-N’s lawyers to present their arguments on Tuesday (today). The bench also called lawyers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to the next hearing. They inquired about the sources of the documents obtained by the JIT.
“Without knowing what the sources are, can we say that the documents are accurate,” Justice Ejaz Afzal asked, adding that it would have to be verified whether the documents from abroad were transferred to Pakistan through legal means. Representing the prime minister before the apex bench, Advocate Khawaja Harris said that two requests had been filed in relation to the JIT; the first asks for Volume X of the report to be made available, while the second contains objections to the report.
The application submitted by Harris on behalf of the prime minister states that withholding Volume X of the JIT report was a malafide act and requests that it be made available to the premier before the case proceeds. It claims that the entire investigation was a farce and that the JIT was inherently biased and unfair to the respondents. It said that there was no incriminating evidence against Nawaz in the whole report.
He argued that JIT had employed illegal means while collecting documents during the investigation. “The JIT exceeded its mandate and the documents that they have submitted alongside their final report cannot be seen as proof,” he said, requesting the court to dismiss the report. “It will be easier if you limit your arguments to the issues at hand,” Justice Afzal remarked. Harris will present the rest of his argument at the next hearing.
Interestingly, the application stresses that since the JIT has been given 60 days to complete their investigation, and they having availed an extra 6 days on this account, they’ve submitted a complete report, they cannot be allowed to place any further document on the record. Also points out that the court has also laid down that there can be no fair trial without fair investigation.
In his arguments, Bukhari highlighted certain findings from the JIT report, including the alleged false testimony of Tariq Shafi, who is Nawaz Sharif’s cousin and a key respondent in the case. “Shafi recorded a false testimony earlier regarding an agreement that he made in 1980 with Abdullah Kayed Ahli, the owner of Ahli Steel Company, Dubai in which Shafi held 25 per cent shares,” he claimed.
According to Shafi’s testimony, under the agreement signed at the time of the sale of the Gulf Steel Mills, Shafi’s shares in Ahli’s company were sold and a net aggregate sum of 12 million dirhams was agreed upon. Shafi stated that he had deposited the massive sum with Sheikh Fahad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani of Qatar, after receiving each instalment from Mohammad Abdullah Kayed Ahli.
The JIT sought legal assistance from the United Arab Emirates in conducting its investigations and found that the transaction of 12m dirhams never took place, Bukhari claimed. “It was claimed that the Gulf Steel Mills were sold for 33m dirhams,” he said, arguing that this was not the case and the Sharif family had been unable to clear its position regarding the mills. “According to the JIT, the funds for investment in Qatar were not available to the Sharif family,” Justice Ahsan observed.
Bukhari claimed that the letter by former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani that was submitted in the court was proven to be bogus and therefore, the story is now finished. “Was the letter bogus or was the story around the letter bogus,” Justice Ejaz Afzal asked the lawyer, to which Bukhari replied that both were fabricated.
As the bench inquired about the sources of the Sharif family’s funds, the lawyer told the court that the JIT in its report stated that the assets of the ruling family and the finance minister exceeded their incomes. Bukhari pointed out that according to the JIT report, the PM was the beneficial owner of the Saudi-based company Hill Metals Establishment and that the letter from the former Qatari PM was fake.
The trust deed of the four flats located in London’s upscale Park Lane neighbourhood, executed between Maryam Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz ─ the prime minister’s children ─ in February 2006, was found to be false by the JIT, Bukhari told the bench. Salman Akram Raja, the counsel representing the prime minister’s sons in the Panama case, had argued in February that bearer certificates of the flats had remained with Maryam between February and July 2006.
However, they were cancelled upon execution of the trust deed and registered under Minerva Services Limited ─ an entity that appointed directors for the two offshore companies, Nielson Enterprises Ltd and Nescoll Ltd, that owned the four flats. However, the JIT found that the font used in the trust deed was not available in 2006 and declared the deed to be fabricated, Bukhari argued.
“No trust deed was signed after the bearer certificates were cancelled,” he said. “The JIT has found Maryam to be the beneficial owner of the London flats,” he said. “What difference does it make that Maryam has been shown as the beneficial owner of the London flats?” Justice Ejaz Afzal questioned. “It will make a difference when it is proved that she is the prime minister’s dependent.”
Jamaat counsel Taufeeq Asif also highlighted the JIT report’s findings, but the judges reminded him that they were already aware of the report’s contents, saying that he was required to present arguments. Justice Ijazul Ahsan told Asif that the bench was not bound to implement the findings of the JIT. “You have to tell us why we should. Tell us to what extent we can implement the suggestions of the JIT,” he said.
“Questions of the prime minister being sadiq and ameen can now be raised, prima facie,” the judge added. Sheikh Rashid, who also appeared before the bench, requested that the petitioners should be given time to respond to the objections submitted by the Sharif family and Senator Ishaq Dar. -Shah Nawaz Mohal/Farid Sabri