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May 1, 2021

Justice Isa, Sarina’s response to questions in Supreme Court


May 1, 2021

ISLAMABAD: It is evident from the case's complete record that Justice Qazi Faez Isa and his wife Sarina Isa, through a legal discourse, responded to more than a dozen questions pertaining to their UK properties, foreign transactions, source of income and family’s tax matters.

The exoneration of Sarina Isa and her husband has apparently strengthened the notion after both attempted to respond to all the questions with supporting documents defying the evidence the government legal team presented before the court of law.

The debate generated many questions in and outside the court after the verdict attracted the attention of many to glance through the whole case record, files and voluminous material brought on the record to understand the genesis of this case, answers to questions posed by the government and tax authorities to Sarina Isa and her family.

More than 97 happenings (hearings and FBR proceedings) were recorded in Justice Isa's case where some 17 lawyers, attorneys, judges and Sarina Isa presented their arguments before the apex court since May 2019, according to a study of this case made by Geo News. Sarina Isa and Justice Qazi Faez Isa, private counsels, government's legal team, bar councils, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and other individuals consumed more than 112 hours of the apex court in the past 23 months. Both parties presented over 5,130 pages and files with supporting documents before the apex court and tax authorities during the course of proceedings.

Judges and tax authorities framed some 14 key questions for Judge Isa and Sarina Isa at various stages following findings of the government's institutions about the petitioners (judge & family), the case documents revealed. These questions link to Sarina Isa's UK properties, their declarations, source of income, tax matters and properties link with Judge Isa. Geo News after going through a plethora of documents and case files tried to find out how Judge Isa and Sarina Isa responded to pertinent questions.

Q) Who owned UK properties, asked the SC and the government legal team.

Ans) The evidence presented before the court established that the properties were owned by Sarina Isa and her children, rebutting the government's claim that Judge Isa owned these properties.

Q) Did Judge Isa has any link with UK properties, asked the SC and government legal team.

Ans) Thorough study of case documents revealed that not a single evidence came on the record which could prove that Justice Isa owned these properties.

Q) Who purchased these UK properties, asked the judges and the government legal team.

Ans) Both the SC and FBR admitted that Sarina Isa purchased the UK properties, according to case proceedings and official record.

Q) Did Sarina Isa purchase properties through illegitimate funds, questioned SC and government legal team.

Ans) Not a single evidence came on the record that Sarina Isa acquired through illegitimate source of income. FBR and SC admitted Sarina Isa's source of income and no illegality involved in this process.

Q) Did Sarina involve in money laundering or hawala hundi while transferring funds to UK, asked SC and tax authorities.

Ans) Tax authorities made it clear that whole transactions made by Sarina Isa from 2003 to 2014 for buying under question properties were legal. FBR records submitted before the SC also vindicated Sarina's stance that she made all foreign transactions through legal banking channels. No evidence came on the record in the court of law which one could say that transactions were not fair.

Q) Show purpose as supporting children instead of buying the property, asked two SC judges during the course of proceedings.

Ans) Sarina Isa through documentary proof convinced the SC that she transferred gradually amount from Pakistan to the UK through banking channel to afford educational expenses as well as to buy properties after one and other in a period of 11 years. Properties were jointly owned by her and children, read the documents endorsed by the apex court.

Q) Were children dependents, asked worthy judges.

Ans) It was also established through the case documents in the court that the wife and children of the under trial judge were not dependents. Children were paying taxes in the UK and Sarina Isa was paying her taxes independently and also filing returns in Pakistan.

Q) Did Sarina declare her UK properties, asked the SC judges and tax authorities.

Ans) Documentary proof submitted by Sarina Isa before the court, equally endorsed by judges during the course of proceedings, revealed she declared her overseas assets after the new law came into force. Sarina Isa, after 2018 and before presidential reference, wrote multiple times to the FBR, as documents showed, on sudden change in her RTO. As the RTO issue was fixed, Sarina declared her properties, according to documents equally endorsed by the court in its observations.

Q) Did the FBR serve any notice to Sarina on purportedly not declaring her offshore, asked the SC.

Ans) Tax authorities said they never served any notice to Sarina Isa or her family on this specific matter. During the course of hearing, judges also endorsed her viewpoint pertaining to tax authorities' record showed that the FBR never served any notice to the petitioner (Sarina) for 'non declaration,' if there was any. She argued before the court that she was not filing returns in Pakistan as she left job soon after her husband joined the government service. "I was told in 2018 that the law has been changed and I have to declare my properties in tax returns now, so I declared them in my returns," she told the court.

Q) Did Sarina have enough source of income to buy her foreign assets, asked tax authorities and SC.

Ans) On the issue of whether legitimate funds were available to Sarina for acquiring UK properties, documents presented before the apex court and tax authorities revealed that she earned income through salary, gifts from father and her hundreds of kanals agricultural land. There was no dispute on legitimacy of source of income in the court as well.

Q) Did Sarina hide her one bank account purportedly owned by judge Isa as well, asked the tax authorities.

Ans) Some points FBR commissioner Zulfiqar Ahmad in her 164-page report made was that there was a local bank account linked to both wife and husband was missing in declaration, undeclared offshore and their uncounted agri-income, so it could be a separate case, if SC let them proceed. The court did not endorse the FBR's findings. Judges took Sarina Isa's arguments on the record during the course of hearing after she questioned legality of the term 'money trail' and also FBR’s scope in questioning a seven years old case as the last apartment was bought in 2013 and the FBR starting probing it in 2020.

The petitioners cited references of 52 different cases including judicial precedents from different courts and voluminous materials were submitted to the court as case studies. Judge Isa and her wife collectively stayed 31 hours in the court where both either presented their arguments before the judge or witnessed proceedings of their case in the past two years.

On her Spanish citizenship, Sarina already brought the facts on the record that she is a Spanish national and lived with her husband on an extendable visa. There was no dispute on her travel credential at all, also equally admitted by the apex court. Neither the government legal team nor any other party questioned her credentials during the course of proceedings.

Three questions posed by Justice Bandial to Justice Isa to explain "if he [judge Isa] had any link with his wife Sarina Isa’s accounts, transfer of money and purchase of UK properties after his appointment as Chief Justice BHC", however, remained unanswered.

Judge Isa informed the court that these queries emanated from FBR chairman's report which he has rejected already. Finally, the apex court exonerated the judge and her wife from the FBR's proceedings. All eyes are on the detailed judgment of the apex court, which would respond to the rest of the queries.