Friday December 09, 2022

Imran didn’t declare asset, offshore company and its account

September 27, 2017

ISLAMABAD: If compared with the case of disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on basis of non-declaration of assets using a very stretched definition of the word ‘asset’, the admissions of PTI chief Imran Khan regarding non-disclosure of his Jersey based offshore company, most importantly admitted bank accounts associated with it, makes this a case of the clearest and intentional non-declaration.

An important difference between the two cases is that the allegation of not withdrawing salary despite being entitled to,  against Nawaz Sharif pertains to the time period (2006-March 2013) when he was not a public office holder, whereas non-disclosure of offshore company ‘Niazi Services Limited (NSL)’ and Barclays Bank account associated with this company and other bank accounts of NSL pertains to the time period (2002, 2003, 2004 and then 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) when Imran Khan was a member of the National Assembly. The NSL was closed down in October 2015 (after being  operational for 33 years) whereas the documents of Panama Papers were leaked to  journalist Süddeutsche Zeitung in May/June 2015 (5 months before closure NSL) and hundreds of journalists associated International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) started working of gigantic data of offshore companies. 

Preempting the release of leak of offshore companies, the Sharif family members admitted owning offshore companies declaring them legal entities while the PTI chief went for the closure of his offshore company but did not admit it. The Jang Group investigation unearthed his offshore company after which he made an admission in this regard. PTI chief Imran Khan had never declared his offshore entity and bank accounts associated with his offshore company – neither in annual tax returns nor his nomination papers for the general elections of 2002 and 2013. Despite repeated questions to PTI chief and his accountant Tahir Nawaz, and promises of PTI leaders to provide complete statements of bank accounts associated with offshore company, the details were never disclosed to media or even in the apex court. 

One thing regarding bank accounts of PTI chief was a little confusing during Tuesday’s hearing in SC. The News investigations revealed that the bank accounts of Imran Khan’s offshore company NSL in question in this case were in Jersey, Channel Islands, a notorious jurisdiction of offshore companies, and not in London. Imran’s personal account was in London.

Regarding non-declaration of his offshore company, PTI chief claimed that only one ‘asset’ - the London flat - was owned by the offshore company which he declared under ‘whitening of black money scheme of 2001’. PTI chief counsels repeatedly argued before the Supreme Court that as only asset of the offshore company was declared so offshore company, having no other asset, was not declared.

During the course of the hearing, opponent lawyers trapped PTI chief Imran Khan by consistently pressing him to disclose the money trail of purchase of Banigala land. Imran came up with a letter of an Islamabad-based wealthy businessman Rashid Khan, whom he appointed in Board of Directors of Bank of Khyber. Imran claimed that in fact his ex-wife had borrowed him money which was sent from UK to the bank accounts of Rashid Khan in Pakistan and that same money was used to make payments of Banigala land. 

Imran also added that later he returned the money to his ex-wife after selling London flat owned by NSL. To prove that he returned money, Imran Khan also submitted a letter from “Jersey” written to accountant of PTI chief showing that money was transferred from the bank account (Barclay Bank) of Niazi Services Limited to the account of ex-wife of Imran Khan. This was the first admission of bank accounts associated with the offshore company and that these continue to exist even after selling “the only asset” of NSL. 

The letter from Jersey produced in SC reads: “We confirm that upon receipt of a letter dated 18 April 2003 from Mr I Khan requesting that a payment be made to Mrs Jemima Khan's account with the Anglo Irish Bank, a payment of GBP562,415.54 was made from Niazi Services Limited's account with Barclays Private Bank & Trust Limited to Mrs Khan's account on the 7 May 2003.”

Not only this, the documents clearly prove that even after paying money to his ex-wife there were tens of thousands of UK Pounds in the bank account associated with the offshore company NSL much after selling of “the only asset”, the London flat. Imran neither declared this bank account nor the money present in this bank account in 2003 when he was an MNA. He even avoided declaring his operational offshore company while submitting his nomination papers to contest 2013 General Elections and closed it down in October 2015 few months after the release of Panama Papers. 

According to responses submitted by Imran, he sold the London flat for GBP690,307 (after subtraction of all expenses) and that he paid to his ex-wife an amount of GBP562,415. The amount left over in bank account of offshore company was GBP127,892. The bank account is admittedly an asset without going into any dictionaries. 

Not agreeing to the punishment of ‘de-seating’ awarded after proper trial to MNA Justice (R) Iftikhar Ahmad Cheema in a case of non-declaration of an assets, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court in its July 28 judgement and September 15 Order (Review Petitions) has laid down a principle that even a minor non-declaration by a legislator will make him “dishonest” and will result in his disqualification under article 62(1)(f) of the constitution. Now a three-member bench of the apex court is hearing a very clear case of non-declaration of assets against PTI chief Imran Khan and top PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen.