Friday December 03, 2021

Where the SC’s Panama verdict really haunts the Sharifs!

May 05, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The most frightening part for the prime minister and his children in the Supreme Court’s recent majority judgment in the Panama case is the judges’ view that there is sufficient evidence available which prima facie shows that the ruling Sharif family had acquired the London flats in early Nineties.

For the same reason, the apex court ordered the formation of a JIT to probe the money matters of the Sharifs. It is believed that the major challenge for the JIT, which is in the process of formation, will be to find concrete proof of the Sharifs’ ownership of London flats since 1993-94.

In Para 23 of the majority judgment, authored by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, the verdict said that “sufficient material” has surfaced on the record “which prima facie shows” that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his dependents and benamidars acquired assets in the early Nineties.

In none of the other questions raised before the apex court and discussed in the judgment, the verdict indicted the prime minister and his children in such a manner.

In the same para, the verdict did say that no aboveboard or undisputed documentary evidence has been brought on the record to show that respondent No. 1 (prime minister) defaulted in the payment of tax as far as his assets as declared in the tax returns are concerned.

But the judgment did say, “However, sufficient material, as highlighted in para 16 above, has surfaced on the record which prima facie shows that respondent No. 1 (Prime Minister), his dependents and benamidars acquired assets in the early Nineties and thereafter which being disproportionate to his known means of income call for a thorough investigation.”

It added, “In the normal circumstances this job could well be done by NAB, but when its Chairman, in view of his conduct he has demonstrated in Hudaibya’s case by not filing an appeal against a split verdict of the Lahore High Court, appears to be indifferent and even unwilling to perform his part, we are constrained to constitute a joint investigation team (JIT) which would consist of the following members…..”

In Para 16 of the judgment, the SC, referred to a number of documents produced by the petitioners showing the establishment of Gulf Steel Mill at Dubai, its sale, establishment of Azizia Steel Mill at Jeddah, its sale and incorporation of Nescol Limited and Neilsen Enterprises Limited in British Virgin Islands. 

The Para 16 added, “Under the veil of the aforesaid companies, respondent No. 1 has been alleged to have acquired flats No. 16, 16-A, 17 and 17-A at Avenfield House, Park Lane, London. The personal information form dated 14.10.2011 purportedly issued by Minerva Trust and Corporate Services Limited shows respondent No. 6 as the beneficial owner of the flats. This document has been purportedly signed by the said respondent, but she disputed its genuineness and even her signatures thereon. Another document showing respondent No. 6 as the beneficial owner of the flats is the alleged correspondence between Mr. Errol George, Director FIA, British Virgin Islands and Money Laundering Reporting Officer of Mossack Fonseca & Co. (B.V.I.) Limited. A photocopy of an extract from the clients register of Director, Minerva Trust and Corporate Services Limited, according to the learned ASC for the petitioner, is yet another document proving respondent No. 6 as the beneficial owner of the flats.”

Then in the same para, the SC ruled, “In any case, the questions how did Gulf Steel Mill come into being; what led to its sale; where did go its sale proceeds; how did they reach Jeddah, Qatar and the U.K.; whether respondents No. 6, 7 and 8 in view of their tender ages had the means in the early nineties to purchase the flats; whether sudden appearance of letters of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani is a myth or a reality; how bearer shares crystallized into the flats; how did Hill Metal Establishment come into existence; where did the money for Flagship Investment Limited and where did its Working Capital Fund come from and where did the huge sums running into millions gifted by respondent No. 7 to respondent No. 1 drop in clamor for answers to be found by the investigation agency and then by the Accountability Court established under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance.”