Panama leaks case: PTI submits ‘evidence’ against Sharif family

Published: November 15, 2016
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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on Monday submitted stacks of documents to substantiate its allegation of corruption against the ruling Sharif family as a larger bench of the Supreme Court is set to resume today (Tuesday) hearing of a slew of petitions filed primarily against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the wake of Panamagate scandal.

Panama Papers, a leak of classified documents of a Panama-based firm, revealed in April that three scions of the Sharif family owned offshore companies in international tax havens.

In its documentary evidence, PTI’s legal team has tried to establish that the Sharif family has owned London properties since 1993 and not since 2006 as they claim. Along with Premier Sharif, the PTI is also trying to implicate his daughter, Maryam Safdar, who is regarded as his political heir.

One of the certificates – dated February 7, 2006 – which bears Maryam’s signs, shows her as a ‘sole shareholder’ of Nescoll limited – one of the two companies that allegedly owned the Sharif family’s properties in London as revealed in the Panama Papers.

“The undersigned Maryam Safdar, being the sole shareholder of the company, hereby confirms the adoption of the following resolutions. It was noted LZ Nominees Limited was reappointed as a nominee director of the company.

“Thus; Resolves that reappointment of LZ Nominees Limited as nominee director for the company with effect from 13 May 2004 be and is hereby accepted and approved by the company and the sole shareholder of the company,” reads the document.

Earlier, Maryam in her reply before the Supreme Court had claimed that she was only a trustee and not a shareholder or beneficiary of the properties.

Moreover, her brother in his reply had claimed that he had purchased these properties in 2006 through the money given to him by his grandfather after selling his business in Dubai.

“According to entries in Her Majesty’s Land Registry the said suites are owned by the above offshore companies namely M/S Neilson and M/S Nescoll, both registered in BVI Ansbacher AG Zurich.

“These companies are again operated and controlled by Mr Urs Specker. The management of these suites is being done by Mr Ridley of Dibb Lumpton Broomhead, Solicitors of London. The link of these luxury suites is beyond any speck of doubt,” reads another document in volume two.

Volume one of the PTI documents focuses on Maryam Safdar and Hussain Nawaz Sharif’s overseas assets. Volume two is mainly based on purported money laundering of Sharif family in 1980 and 1990s. In this volume, the PTI has reproduced the case prepared by Rehman Malik as the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) former additional director general.

Malik sent his articulation in 1998 to then president of Pakistan, chief justice, Ehtesab commissioner and army chief during Nawaz Sharif’s second term as the prime minister. No action was taken on his investigations by any of the investigating agencies.

Volume three gives details of tax record of the Sharif family since the 1970s and details of loans the family got written off. In some of the documents, the PTI has delineated how wealth of the Sharif family multiplied and they became business in three decades.

Most of the documents are reproduction of record already published in media or submitted before different forums in the past. Many of the details given in these documents seem extraneous and appear to be enhancing the scope of investigations beyond Panama Papers.

“We should have provided concise record and must have remained focused on Panama leaks. There seems to be no coherence in the material submitted today,” one of the members of the PTI legal team said, while commenting on the record before the court.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan had a detailed meeting with his lead counsel Hamid Khan late in the evening. According to Ishaq Khakwani, the PTI’s 686-pages are chronicles of the Sharif family’s wrongdoings, adding it is now for the lawyers to submit summaries in their narratives.

“During tomorrow’s proceedings the PTI legal team will try to press the court’s larger bench to keep hearing instead of referring it to the proposed one-judge commission,” another PTI leader said.

A legal aide of the Sharif family told The Express Tribune that respondents would provide much concise documentary evidence to prove their case before the larger bench today. “We won’t give any impression that we want to prolong this case. We may ask for day to day hearing. Maybe we ask for a full court hearing,” he added.

Legal experts believe there were many missing links in the documents submitted so far, contrary to the earlier claims of the PTI. However, it will depend on cogency of the PTI counsels as to how they plead their case and what additional documents they have with them to provide to the jury.

PM’s children replace their counsel

In a dramatic turn of events, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children have changed their counsel. Instead of submitting documentary evidences to establish the trail of money on Monday, the Sharif family  submitted a one-page application, stating that Akram Sheikh will appear on behalf of Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz.

Earlier, former attorney general for Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt was representing the Sharif family and he had also submitted a reply on their behalf on the last date of hearing.

A senior leader of the ruling party told The Express Tribune that earlier renowned lawyer Khawaja Haris was contacted to join Sharif’s family legal team but he declined. Later, Akram Sheikh accepted the offer to plead the case of PM’s children.

He admitted that the party members were visibly upset by the judges’ observations during the previous hearing of the case, adding that the legal team should have aggressively presented their case.

On the other hand, senior lawyers belonging to the ruling party are astonished by the move as they believe that it is not wise to change the counsel at this stage. “You don’t change the horses in the middle of race,” said one of the lawyers.

Akram Sheikh has long association with Sharif family as he on the request of the PM got the difficult task of pleading the treason case against former president Pervez Musharraf. Recently, his son Adnan Sheikh has been appointed as Special Assistant to PM on legal affairs.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2016.

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