ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s counsel on Wednesday expressed inability to submit complete documentary record on the money trail through which the ruling Sharif family had acquired luxury flats in a posh London neighbourhood.
“We cannot submit records dating back to 40 years showing a liability of 36 million Dirhams and an investment of 12 million in Qatar,” the premier’s counsel, Salman Aslam Butt, stated.
Panamagate case: Sharifs’ attorney told to answer three questions
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 the London flats. 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.
Butt further said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) possessed the entire company record in 1999. However, he maintained despite the Lahore High Court’s order to return it, NAB is yet to provide the complete record.
A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court hearing the petitions was not impressed with Butt’s contention and observed unavailability of record is not a valid reason.
“PM Nawaz, himself, during his speeches claimed the whole record regarding the purchase of London flats is available but now you are saying you forgot,” Justice Asif Khosa remarked. This is not a valid reason and you should explain the record before the court, he added.
Next week crucial for Panamagate case
The bench further told the premier’s counsel they should have not made contradictory statements on the money trail in public speeches. "This is a dangerous line of defence" Justice Khosa said. Justice Ijazul Ahsan also observed the premier never mentioned Qatari investments in his speeches.
The bench, however, upheld the premier is honourable till allegations levelled against him are proven. "The top court had maintained former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is honourable till allegations were proven against him and the same applies to PM Nawaz. However, we will ask questions," the bench ruled.
The top court once again proposed forming a commission for examining the documentary evidences in Panamagate case. The bench has given 30 minutes to PTI and PML-N to respond to its suggestion. However, PTI has sought time to give its consent over the SC's proposal regarding the formation of commission. The court accepting PTI counsel Naeem Bukhari's plea adjourned the hearing till Friday.
PTI’s stance on judicial commission
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan said they will hold consultation with regard to formation of the judicial commission and come up with a decision on the next hearing. Imran said the PTI pointed out in the court that all institutions were working under the premier and thus he should present his resignation.
PTI chairman said that the government failed to produce documents of the London’s Mayfair flats as against its earlier claim of possessing the evidence. No evidence relating to the letter of the Qatari prince was submitted either, he added.
Imran also criticised the premier’s counsel for terming the speech in the parliament relating to Panama Papers as ‘political’ saying it was supposed to be a response to the nation in connection with the scandal.
Independent experts believe the top court cannot give a final ruling without holding a detailed inquiry into the matter. They believe the judges are not in the mood to disqualify Premier Sharif on the basis of available evidence.
Of all the petitioners, three are in favour of a judicial commission, but the PTI and the ruling PML-N are not interested in the formation of the commission.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the Sharif family’s counsel Akram Sheikh said it was his personal opinion that the top court should decide the case itself as the petitioners have failed to present substantial evidence against his clients to establish their case.
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Sheikh, who has a long legal career spanning 44 years, claimed that he would quash all the allegations against his clients and would conclude his arguments, most likely, in one day.
Sources close to Sheikh said he had taken up the case after he was satisfied with the evidence, which have been provided by Sharif’s children to establish the money trail.
Another member of the Sharif family’s legal team said it was a ridiculous claim of the PTI that Sharif family owned luxury London flats prior to 2006, adding that they were well-prepared to respond to the Al Towfeek case judgment, wherein these properties were attached by a UK court.
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