Friday June 14, 2024

Toshakhana scam: Whom to believe?

By Kasim Abbasi
November 17, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The latest controversy into Imran Khan’s Toshakhana dealings raises serious questions on the Cabinet Division’s evaluation mechanism that determines the market price of foreign gifts.

This jewel class watch box gifted to Imran Khan had over 2,000 diamonds weighing almost 41.54 carats in total and was valued at around 100 million rupees by the Cabinet Division during Imran Khan’s tenure. The same set is valued at over 1.7 billion rupees by TimeZone Watch Ltd, Dubai.

Interestingly, former PM IK claims to have sold unique jewel class Mecca design watch set to a local dealer in Islamabad for 51 million rupees while Umar Farooq Zahoor, a businessman in Dubai, insists of buying the same watch for 280 million rupees from Farah Khan, a close acquaintance to the then first lady.

Both the sides insist to have the documentary evidence in support of their claim but one thing is certain that one of them is lying. The details of this Jewel Class gifted Watchbox as mentioned by the Dubai based businessman are the same as reflected in Toshakhana documents.

A senior government official familiar with Cabinet Division and its dealings told The News on condition of anonymity the process by which value is assessed after it is deposited by the recipient. The source said that when a gift is deposited in Toshakhana, two people are asked to access their value. One is an appraiser officer of Grade 16 of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). While the other is a dealer or expert of the type of gift that is received. For example, in case of a gifted watch, a watch dealer or an expert in the watch market will be asked to come and assess the value, which is overseen by the FBR officer.

“If the gifts value exceeds rupees five lakh, then a committee is formed to assess the value of that gift,” said the source. When questioned why this MasterGraff Unique diamond watch was assessed at such a minimal value compared to its genuine price, the source said, “All gifts are usually assessed at much lesser value than their original worth.”

There is mostly pressure on the committee from above to assess minimal value of the deposited gift, so it could be retained at lesser amount of money, the source said. Talking to Geo News on Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath, Umar Zahoor Farooq displayed the Special Edition Graff watch – one of its kind – before the camera and claimed of buying it from Farah Khan in Dubai back in 2019 in April for 2 million dollars, which stood at around 280 million rupees at that time.

On the other hand, the receipt of the sale of this same Graff special edition watch to Art of Time, a watch dealer in F-7 Islamabad, was deposited by the former premier himself before the Cabinet Division. The receipt dated 22nd January 2019 present with The News, specifically mentions of purchasing a set containing a Graff gents watch, a ring, pair of cufflinks and a pen from Imran Khan.

On the same day on 22nd January, official documents of the State Bank of Pakistan show that Imran Khan deposited 20.1 million rupees in government’s treasury (20 percent of 100 million rupees assessed value by Toshakhana). It is not clear whether the watch was sold before depositing Rs20.1 million in the government’s treasury or it was deposited after Khan sold the watch.

Whereas, Umar Farooq Zahoor said on Geo that he received a call from the then accountability minister Shahzad Akber and was informed about the gifted watch and was asked if he was interested in buying it. Umar claimed that he bought this watch through Farah Khan, who came to Dubai and took two million dollars in cash (7.5 million dirham approx.).

However, PTI categorically denies any such sale on behalf of Imran Khan or Farah Khan. Fawad Chaudary said that the watch was never sold to Umar Farooq Zahoor nor did Farah Khan had anything to do with the sale. It is pertinent to mention here that the Mecca Special Edition Graff watch box with a ring, cufflinks and a fountain pen was gifted to ex-premier by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Suleman and it was one of its kind. Now the question that arises is whom to believe? Former prime minister Imran Khan’s claim, the Toshakhana and government maintained record or the statement made by Umar Farooq Zahoor? How did the watch reach Umar Farooq Zahoor, which was sold by IK in Islamabad? Is it possible that the Islamabad watch dealer ‘Art of Time’ sold the watch to Dubai businessman or issued fake sale receipt to Imran Khan?

Graff is a British multinational jeweller based in London. It was founded by British jeweller Laurence Graff in 1960. A vertically integrated company, Graff operations comprise the design, manufacture and retail distribution of jewellery and watches.

Graff has a rich history. It is said to have handled more diamonds of rarity, magnitude and distinction than any other jeweller. Perhaps most notably, the House has dominated the list of historically important rough diamonds cut and polished this century, and remains the leader in the production and retail of exceptional diamonds and precious gemstones.