ISLAMABAD: The top court has asked the Sharif family to provide details of the Qatar royal family’s investment in Pakistan and also submit conclusive documentary evidence to establish that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz is the beneficial owner of Park Lane flats in London.
As hearing of the Panamagate case resumed on Wednesday after a gap of almost two weeks, the Sharif family’s attorney Salman Akram Raja tried to convince the Supreme Court’s five-judge larger bench – headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa – that receiving gifts from foreign ruling families was not unusual.
He cited examples of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who got 10 million Saudi riyals as a gift from the Saudi royal family and of a former Malaysian president who also received $60 million as a gift.
Justice Khosa asked Raja whether the gifts received by the Sharif family were a ‘one-sided’ thing or Qatar’s al Thani family too was receiving ‘favours’ in return. The counsel replied that ‘favour’ was a strong word, adding that the royal family also does business and must have invested in Pakistan.
Justice Khosa asked Raja whether it is possible to find out details of the Qatari family’s business in Pakistan. Raja said he would try to obtain information in this regard.
The bench also asked the counsel to present documentary evidence to establish that Hussain Nawaz was the beneficial owner of the London flats, as the Sharif family had claimed. “Where is the document which shows Hussain Nawaz is the beneficial owner of London flats?” asked Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.
The top court judge also asked the counsel to provide the Sharif family’s agreement with Minerva Services Limited – a company, which, the premier’s family claims, is a service provider to Nielsen and Nescoll offshore companies owned by the PM’s son.
“Show us relevant documents that could reveal who gave payment to the service providing company (Minerva),” said the judge.
In his remarks, Justice Khosa said, “This is the stage which will make or break the Panamagate case.” He expressed wonder at how four apartments in London’s upscale area were acquired for two students [Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz] in the 1990s.
The Sharif’s counsel claimed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s nephew Hamza Shahbaz was also studying in the UK at that time. However, he expressed his inability to provide complete documents regarding ownership of the apartments.
“It will not be possible to give every document regarding the money trail,” Raja told the larger bench. He, however, submitted that he will try to provide the information related to the agreement with Minerva Company today (Thursday).
He informed the bench the Sharifs had been doing business for over 40 years and that it was not possible to place records of all these years. He said even his clients did not have access to the records as they had undergone a trauma due to military rule, during which record was also lost.
Justice Khosa observed that the issue was not related to dependency of the PM’s daughter Maryam Nawaz but it pertained to the ruling family’s honesty. Referring to the last year’s interview of Hussain Nawaz, he observed that the respondent had claimed they purchased London flats through mortgage.
Later, the judge asked the PTI lawyer to provide transcripts of Hussain Nawaz’s two interviews.
The top court judge also observed that there was no document which could show how bearer shares regarding the ownership of London flats were transferred to the Sharifs by the Qatari royal family in 2006. The computer technology was easily available and after 9/11 everything is documented, he said.
Another judge, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that no document had been produced regarding the generation of money by Qatar’s investment, as well as ownership of the flats. He also observed that there was no document, which could substantiate the money trail
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked Raja to tell the top court how the London flats were purchased by the Sharif family. He asked as to what was stopping him from providing documents.
At the outset, Raja said the court had posed eight questions. These include questions about relationship between the PM’s father – Mian Mohammad Sharif – and the al Thani family, Sharif’s shares in Nielsen and Nescoll, and the profits the family gained from them.
He also submitted 11 legal propositions related to this case. The counsel said if the court was doing trial then the burden was not on the PM’s sons to prove their innocence beyond doubt under the National Accountability Ordinance.
He, however, contended that this court cannot reach a conclusion until an inquiry was conducted through an appropriate investigation agency as it cannot assume authority of trial court. “Our position is that these properties (London flats) came out of the grandfather’s business,” he said.
Citing the case of the former chief justice’s son Arsalan Iftikhar, wherein it was ruled that trials for cases can be held at relevant forums, Raja contended that the matter can be sent to relevant authority for inquiry adding that the top court never took up criminal proceedings directly.
He, however, stated that the court can pass appropriate directives regarding the investigation as it had done in National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) and Hajj scam cases. The bench expects Raja to conclude his arguments today (Thursday).
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2017.