Supreme Court observed on Wednesday that the trail of money that enabled the Sharif family to purchase the Mayfair flats has not yet been shared with the apex court. This observation came during the resumption of the hearing in the three-member bench led by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan for implementation of the apex court verdict in the Panama Papers case.
On Wednesday, Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, concluded his arguments before the bench. The counsel for Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Dr Tariq Hassan, commenced his arguments while the counsel for Nawaz Sharif’s children Hussain, Hassan and Maryam Nawaz, Salman Akram Raja, stated that he would commence his arguments on Thursday (today) and would present additional documentary evidence.
Concluding his arguments, Khawaja Haris contended that his client did not conceal his assets before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in accordance with the law; and maintained that had his client concealed his assets JIT would have asked him outright. Head of the bench, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, remarked that the money trail in the current matter is unclear and the court has not received any definitive response on money transactions from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Qatar to London to enable the family to purchase the Mayfair properties. He further observed that without a response to these queries any other information has secondary importance.
Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, formerly a corporate lawyer, observed that he knows the definition of benami account and properties while responding to Khawaja Haris’s contention that the JIT did not declare that his client owned the Mayfair properties. Khawaja Haris apprised the bench that the Prime Minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz was a partner in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills and reiterated that his client had nothing to do with the ownership of the London properties.
Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh stated that the JIT neither held Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif responsible for misusing his powers nor accused him of corruption, adding that the court would decide whether it will take the final decision in the current matter or refer the case to a trial court. Responding to Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh’s query over the source of the funds that established the Hill Metals Est. in KSA which remitted profits to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Khawaja Haris submitted that Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz are the right individuals to respond to the query. Khawaja Harris requested the bench to ensure availability of tangible evidence if the court refers the case to a trial court.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that a lot of questions require answers and an answer with evidentiary hearing would entail due process. Subsequent to Khawaja Haris completing his arguments, Advocate Salman Akram Raja stated that the JIT has leveled serious allegations against his clients without authenticating evidence; and that he would produce documents that show Hussain Nawaz as the beneficial owner.
Raja maintained that he had wanted to keep his arguments secret from the media however he revealed that he would submit information about machinery exports from the UAE to KSA mentioned in the JIT report. President Awami Muslim League, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, requested the bench to issue directives to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s counsel to hand over details of Nawaz Sharif’s UAE Iqama (resident permit); the court so directed the Sharif’s lawyer.
Commencing his arguments, Dr Tariq Hassan, counsel for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar challenged the mandate of the JIT to drag his client in the case. Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that Ishaq Dar had stated that the JIT went beyond its mandate in its findings against him, however the JIT did not go beyond its mandate which was to collect evidence and record from any institution, including FBR and NAB.
“Ishaq Dar’s record should have been available with the FBR and it was not available there. You are claiming that NAB took away the record. We are asking questions in simple language and in more than one language so that you may have no problem understanding them but your answer to relevant queries is never germane,” observed Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, while responding to arguments by Dar’s counsel. To his repeated objection over the mandate of the JIT, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh further remarked that the material provided by the JIT would be the basis for the court’s judgment. He further clarified that the apex court’s verdict on the Panama Papers case would not be the final judgment.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that sufficient evidence was not available to accept the arguments of the applicants who wanted the disqualification of the Prime Minister and hence the JIT was tasked to probe the matter further. He further remarked that the court is giving a final opportunity to the respondents to provide relevant documents and the case was veering towards disqualification if the relevant records are not provided.
Tariq Hassan contended that Imran Khan’s petition did not directly accuse Ishaq Dar of anything and that the JIT had wrongly accused his client of not submitting his tax returns for 2001-02, adding that these findings could lead to a trial against his client.
In response, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the counsel would be given the chance to defend his client if the matter goes to trial, adding if there is a criminal trial it would be within the ambit of the law and constitution of Pakistan.
“Your client was given sufficient opportunity by the JIT to provide the information but he refused to do so by claiming it was ‘privileged information’. If you are asked to disclose the source of money and you hide behind ‘privileged information’ then questions would arise that need to be addressed,” he further observed in reference to Dar’s reported employment in the UAE. Referring to Ishaq Dar’s assets, his counsel too the court that his client’s assets have actually decreased over the years which the JIT report did not indicate.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan stated that the “JIT asked Dar about his businesses and earnings but he refused to answer stating it was privileged information. Dar’s assets jumped from Rs 9 million in 1993 to Rs 854 million in 2000”. On Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh observed that Dar was now a suspect after he withdrew his ‘confessional’ statement. Hassan argued that the confessional statement was taken under duress, and later retracted by Dar and thus the matter stands closed and cannot be reopened. “Furthermore, I am not prepared to argue this particular case today,” Dar’s counsel prayed.
Justice Azmat Saeed observed that Dar was a beneficiary of his confessional statement: if the confessional statement was taken under duress then one must not forget that he was pardoned because of his statement. Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that once the court ruled that Dar’s confessional statement was taken under duress then “didn’t the court also direct NAB chairman to reopen the case?” “Should the bench close its eyes to everything,” remarked Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh.
Tariq Hassan’s argument is that his client is not related to the case in any way, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked, but the company of Dar’s son, Ali Dar, received funds from Hill Metals Establishment and there is a link and also movement of money between the two. “We have told you the connection now,” he further remarked. Justice Azmat directed Dar’s counsel to provide additional documents by Thursday, adding he will be given the full chance to defend his case. The hearing of the matter was adjourned till Thursday (today).