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BVI shuns Pakistan on Sharifs’ offshore holdings

January 05, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Government of British Virgin Islands (BVI) has rejected Pakistan’s request for mutual legal assistance concerning criminal investigations into the case of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his children and their offshore companies -- Nielsen and Nescoll.

Informed sources told The News that the Attorney General of the BVI has formally conveyed that the request made by the Pakistani authorities for mutual legal assistance is flawed and does neither talk of the offence, including corruption, nor provides basic information about what needs to be probed.

“The summary of the facts does not provide any background information which shows the nexus between the individuals and companies mentioned and the alleged offence,” the BVI letter said, adding, “The Request must prima facie show how the offence of corruption or corrupt practices may have been committed by the named individuals and companies.”

The BVI letter added, “Further, the request does not provide the relevant bank information; such as the bank institution and account number of the persons/companies, which is to be investigated and information sought.”

The BVI was contacted by JIT/NAB through the Pakistani High Commission in London for mutual legal assistance concerning criminal investigations into the offence of “corruption and corruption practices” besides seeking tax records, bank account information and company records in respect to Mian Nawaz Sharif, his family and the companies, namely Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited.

The BVI after going through the request forwarded from Pakistan, find it “not in conformity with the laws of the Virgin Islands”. The BVI attorney general’s chamber thus wrote to the Pakistani authorities, “We are unable to render any assistance in the execution of your request.”

The Pakistani authorities are told, “You may upon rectification of the mentioned anomalies; that is, rectification of the reasons why the request is not compliant with the laws of the Virgin Islands; submit another request for a further consideration.”

The BVI letter in a way exposed the JIT and NAB’s failure to connect any alleged crime including corruption and money laundering with the Sharifs and their offshore companies -- Nielson and Nescoll.

It is also interesting to note that while the Pakistani authorities are in a great rush to get the Sharifs punished for their offshore companies/wealth but they don’t even have the basic information to take the probe to the right direction.

When contacted, The News London correspondent Murtaza Ali Shah said that the government of the British Virgin Islands has dealt a big blow to the efforts by the National Accountability Bureau to find evidence from outside of Pakistan against the Sharifs.

Murtaza said that the NAB sources has passed to this correspondent a copy of the letter sent this week by office of the BVI’s Attorney General Chambers to the Bureau making it clear that the BVI authorities will help only if proper information is provided which conforms with the relevant laws of the country – suggesting that the fishing exercise to obtain desired information will not yield results. The latest letter has been written by the Crown’s Counsel Sarah Potter-Washington, he added.

He said that the letter sent by the BVI government to the NAB confirms that Pakistani authorities asked the BVI officials to provide “tax records, bank accounts information and company records in respect of Nawaz Sharif, his family and named companies”.

He said that in July last year, the BVI authorities declined to assist the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in probing alleged offences committed by the two offshore companies Nescoll Limited and Nielson Enterprises that control the Sharifs’ four Avenfield apartments.

At that time, the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) was filed by the JIT’s head Wajid Zia, seeking assistance in the confirmation, verification and certification of certain documents. The BVI law officer had said that though the JIT had sought MLA's assistance, it did not conform to the laws of the territory. Then as now, Pakistani investigators didn’t provide any background information, showing a nexus between these companies and any alleged offence and the individuals.

Murtaza said that on both occasions, the BVI authorities said that the MLA filed by Pakistan didn’t show how these companies may have been involved in the inferred offence of corruption or corrupt practices and the request must show, prima facie, how the offence was committed and must also provide a copy, and not a quote, of the law relative to the offence committed.