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Panama Leaks case: Petitioners will have to bring verified evidence

By Ansar Abbasi
November 16, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s name is not reflected anywhere in the Sharifs’ Dubai-Jeddah-Qatar businesses or in the London flats and offshore companies yet the ruling family’s documentary evidence as produced before the apex court raised eyebrows.

The story of the Sharifs’ foreign wealth surrounds primarily around the prime minister’s late father Mian Muhammad Sharif and shows Husain Nawaz becoming the owner of London flats and offshore companies in 2006 because of the will of his late grandfather.

Nawaz Sharif’s name does not reflect anywhere in any of the documentary evidence produced before the court by the defendant family. However, the premier could be dragged into the case because of two reasons, both of which are the consequence of Nawaz Sharif’s own statements.

Firstly, what he had stated in parliament on the issue of PanamaLeaks in defence of his family appears contradictory to what his children have produced before the court.

Secondly, in his reply submitted before the apex court in the PanamaLeaks case, he took the position that Maryam Nawaz neither was nor ever was the “beneficial owner” of the offshore companies — Nescoll Ltd and Neilsen Ltd.

The first case appears serious as against the second one about which Husain Nawaz has produced an authenticated “Trust Deed” signed between him and his sister Maryam Nawaz in 2006 proving that she is a trustee and not a beneficiary.

In case, Husain Nawaz is proved wrong here and Maryam Nawaz is found “beneficial owner” as reflected in the ICIJ documents, the prime minister, even if his daughter is not his dependent, would be in problem for the reason that his reply before the apex court could be found false.

However, to prove the ruling family wrong on the question of “beneficial owner”, either the petitioners have to come up with contradictory but verified evidence from the Registrar of Companies of British Virgin Islands or the apex court has to seek pre and post-2006 ownership details of the offshore companies from the BVIs.

As per the available evidence regarding the issue of “beneficial owner”, the defendants’ case appears strong.But a comparison between the prime minister’s statement in parliament and the evidence produced before the SC by Husain Nawaz about the money trail, shows Nawaz Sharif’s standing is under question.

In his statement before parliament, the prime minister did talk about his father’s business in Dubai and Jeddah to justify sources for the purchase of London flats. However, the premier’s statement in parliament did not mention Qatar, which as per the Sharifs’ evidence now appears as the most critical evidence to justify the London flats.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Akram Sheikh, who is representing the prime minister’s children in the case, when contacted, told The News that there was no contradiction between what the premier had stated in parliament and what has been produced before the apex court to justify the ownership of the London flats by Husain Nawaz.

Sheikh said that the prime minister deliberately avoided taking the name of Qatar and its ruling family with whom the late Mian Sharif had made an investment in the real estate business through the ruling Qatari family. “It was done because of the sensitivities involved in our relations with the brotherly state and its ruling family,” he said adding that the Government of Pakistan as well as the security establishment had special relations with Qatar.

Sheikh insisted that the prime minister had neither any relevance with the Panama Papers nor was he reflected anywhere in the foreign businesses of the Sharif family. Sheikh added that the ruling family underwent a microscopic probe during Musharraf’s dictatorship but nothing had been found against them.