Panamagate case: Sharifs’ attorney told to answer three questions

Top court will skip tax evasion, focus on money trail.

Hasnaat Malik December 07, 2016

ISLAMABAD: A top court bench, which is currently hearing several petitions filed in the wake of the Panamagate scandal, is mainly focused on the money trail through which the ruling Sharif family had acquired luxury flats in a posh London neighbourhood.

The Panama Papers in April revealed that Premier Nawaz Sharif’s children were among dozens of powerful people who had secreted their money in offshore holdings.

The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court observed on Tuesday that tax evasion was outside the purview of Article 184 (3) of the Constitution under which the case is being adjudicated. This may provide relief to both the major parties – the ruling PML-N and its arch-rival PTI – whose leaders are facing tax evasion charges in their ongoing legal battle in the top court.

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When the PTI’s lead counsel, Naeem Bukhari, was trying to establish his case with a focus on alleged tax evasion by Premier Sharif, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh intervened and asked him not to drag the case into complicated tax matters. “Why are you dragging our jurisdiction into this matter?” Upon this, Bukhari stopped giving arguments on the tax evasion issue.

The court seemed to be focusing more on money trail and posed three key questions before the counsel for the Sharif family to prove that his client had acquired the London properties through legal means.

Legal experts, who were present in the courtroom, believe this is a significant development as both parties have levelled allegations of tax evasion against each other in their petitions.

PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi has also invoked jurisdiction of Article 184 (3) of the Constitution against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Jahagir Tareen for allegedly evading taxes.

Meanwhile, when Bukhari contended that the PM should be disqualified as he was not ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ after giving ‘contradictory statements’ about the ownership of the London properties, the bench asked him to approach the appropriate forum for this purpose.

“I am relying on the court’s judgment in former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani’s case,” the PTI attorney asserted. Upon this, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that the judgment had been issued after Gilani’s conviction in a contempt of court matter.

Sheikh Rashid, another petitioner against the Sharif family, was admonished by the court when he emphasised in an emotional manner that the court must do justice. “Are you inviting us to trample the laws to provide you justice,” Justice Khosa remarked.

The PTI’s counsel relied on London High Court’s judgment in the Al Towfeek case to establish that the Sharif family had owned the foreign properties prior to 2006. However, the bench observed that there was nothing on record to establish that the respondents owned the properties in question at that time.

When Sharif family’s counsel Salman Aslam Butt came to the rostrum to present his case, Justice Khosa raised three key questions: 1) how the foreign properties came into the Sharif family’s possession; 2.) why was there a contradiction in PM’s speeches;  and 3) what was the issue of dependency.

“You have accepted owning the properties and now you have to explain it and show the court regarding the trail of money,” the judge asked Salman. Justice Amir Hani Muslim also observed that there were allegations that the London properties had been purchased through unlawful means.

However, Salman said he would argue the issue of dependency first and contended that Maryam Nawaz was not dependent on Premier Sharif since her marriage in 1992. He contested the petitioners’ claim that she was dependent on Sharif on the basis of his tax return in 2011.

“In 2011 the prime minister gave Rs24.3million to his daughter for purchasing 43 kanals in mauza Manshera. Therefore, in his tax return of 2011 in the column of dependent he mentioned ‘land in the name of Maryam Nawaz’, as the PM did not like to hide anything,” he said.

He said in the same year Maryam did not mention that property in her tax returns, but in the following years when she had paid back money to her father, she mentioned that property in her wealth tax statement, while the PM had excluded it in his wealth tax statement 2012.

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“So you didn’t want to hide, therefore, you disclosed everything,” Justice Khosa observed.

Earlier, Justice Azmat raised question over the validity of the trust deed, signed by the PM’s children in 2006. He said if the trust deed was not registered then it would be presumed that that document was made last night.

During the hearing, the chief justice gave very significant observation that they were still open to the option to form a commission to examine relevant evidences, adding they would form the commission whenever it would be needed.

He said the court’s proceedings under Article 184 (3) of Constitution are widened and they would not confine themselves merely on the pleading of the petitioners.

Salman Aslam Butt will give arguments on the PM’s allegedly contradictory speeches as well as money trail today (Wednesday).

Maryam Nawaz will submit her entire tax returns today. Both petitioners as well as respondents have made a request before the bench to hear the case on day to day basis. PTI chief Imran Khan said it is better that the Supreme Court decide the Panama case rather than forming a judicial commission. Talking to media, he said the documents submitted by the PM showed no money trail.

“Nawaz claims his property in London was bought after selling the Gulf Steel, established by his father in Dubai. But the documents show that Gulf Steel was suffering losses. How could he have bought such expensive properties by selling another business that he was running on loss?”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2016.


Asif | 7 years ago | Reply Irony is this is a state in war, poverty, starvation and what not. Does the PM thinks that this distraction is worth it for the country? Why does he feel that he needs the whole country to be taken in with this when he should say that the country does not need this and handover the power to next in PML line of succession? Why he feels obligated to pass on the PMship to his daughter, let her stand on her own feet and let her prove that country is worth her rule. Why, why why PM sahib?? Why?
Tanya Khan | 7 years ago | Reply Million dollar question is...... why are half a dozen ministers of state defending the personal properties of PM family on daily basis????
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