ISLAMABAD: The JIT has declared the Sharif family’s prime and final defence – the letters from Qatari Prince Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber alThani – as ‘totally a myth rather than a reality’, adding that the ruling family had never invested 12 million dirham in the Qatari royal family’s business.
The letters were presented by Sharifs’ attorneys before the Supreme Court during hearing of the Panama Papers case to establish money trail for the ruling family’s foreign properties.
The JIT has concluded that “after having investigated the case [of letters] in detail, examination of witnesses [Sharif family members] and receipt of irrefutable evidence from foreign jurisdiction, recording of the statement of Hamad alThani has become inconsequential.”
The Supreme Court after hearing the Panamagate case for over six months had framed some 13 questions and tasked the JIT to find out their answers. The most important question – Question no 6 – was “Is the letter by Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber alThani a reality or just a myth?”
The reply of the JIT with regard to the question covers over 24 pages of the 256-page report and says, “On the strength of the overwhelming documentary evidence it is concluded that the appearance of letters of Qatari prince are totally a myth.”
“It has been proved through the acquired authentic documentary evidence and inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses that Tariq Shafi [PM’s cousin] never handed over AED 12 million to father of Hamad alThani. Hence, no question of any investment in Qatari business and proceeds thereto,” the JIT report concludes.
Neither Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his speech on the floor of the National Assembly, nor Hussain Nawaz in his interviews recorded days before the Panama Papers leaks ever mentioned the presence of Qatari letters or any investment with the Qatar’s royal family.
However, during the Supreme Court proceedings in the case, the Sharif family presented two letters from the Qatari prince on November 5, 2016 and December 22, 2016 stating how the sale proceeds of the Gulf steel mills had been invested with the royal family in Qatar in 1980. Later this investment was utilised to purchase properties in London and businesses abroad.
The report claims, “PM Sharif, Hassan, Hussain and Maryam Safdar failed to produce any document/record or evidence before the JIT to corroborate contents of the Qatari letters despite prior notices”.
Following investigations, the JIT termed the contents of both Qatari letters ‘hearsay’ and contradictory in claims, stating the “prince did not mention how, when and from whom he learnt about this [investment in Qatar].”
During the course of investigations, the PM’s elder son Hussain Nawaz explained to the JIT that “neither his grandfather [Mian Muhammad Sharif] believed in documentation nor was it a norm at that time in the Gulf of such documentation.”
“It [Tariq Shafi’s statement] definitely indicates that Mr Shafi neither received AED 12 million from Mr Abdullah Kayed Ahli as sale proceeds of remaining 25% shares of Ahli Steel Mills nor did he hand over this claimed amount to Mr Al-Thani during 1980.
“Moreover, the documentary evidence procured as a result of Mutual Legal Assistance response by UAE government conclusively rejects the possibility of any cash transfer,” the reports says.
The report claims that Premier Sharif confirmed before the JIT that he has knowledge of the investment made by his father with the Qatar’s Royal family but he hardly seemed to remember any details.
Premier Sharif’s statement in this regard has been summed up by the JIT as, “His [PM] statement contradicted his stance taken in his submissions before the SC and seemed an effort to substantiate the stance taken by Hussain Nawaz and other respondents at this belated stage.
It adds: “Instead of lending any credence to the evidence [Qatari letters] his shifting of stance further weakened it.” It also terms as ‘implausible’ the statement made before it by Shehbaz Sharif.
The report also notes in details the discrepancies between the first Qatari letter and affidavit of Shafi and the repeated changes in stance of Hussain Nawaz during his multiple appearances before the JIT.
“The two key witnesses, Hussain and Hassan, gave conflicting statements with regards to their knowledge about the details of the Qatari letters, which essentially was used to plug the gaps identified in the money trail.”
UAE government’s response
Under Mutual Legal Assistance the JIT contacted the Ministry of Justice, UAE, through a letter to know the facts about investment of AED 12 million the Sharif family claimed it had obtained through sale proceeds of the Gulf steel mills and invested in Qatar.
The UAE government responded, “Share sale agreement of 1980 of Ahli Steel Mills does not exist.” The JIT concluded that the document submitted before the SC by the Sharif family about the Gulf steel mills sale document is not true and is an attempt to present false evidence.
“Source of money for investing with the Qatari family does not have any document, genuine or false, to support it. All subsequent ventures like the setting up of the various businesses and ownership of Avenfield Apartments of the Sharif family also do not have any basis left.”
Efforts to record Qatari prince statement
The JIT report states that efforts and special arrangements had been made to record the statement of the Qatari prince to ascertain the veracity of the contents of the letters submitted by him.
“Mr Thani despite the best efforts of the JIT chose to delay his responses or sideline the issue of recording of statement, by first refusing to give a statement, then accepting and asking for a date, then raising the legal issues of jurisdiction of Pakistani courts and finally sending his response at the last moment without acceding to the jurisdiction of Pakistan law and courts,” the JIT reports.
It terms the whole exercise “as a tactical move to keep the defense of the respondents alive” and claims that alThani was issued a total of four summonses, respectively on May 13, May 24, June 22, and July 4.
Responding to the first summons, the Qatari prince only verified the contents of the letters in writing and claimed following “reconfirmation of letters content there is no requirement for my (Prince) attendance in the proceedings of the JIT”.
Responding second summons alThani wrote to the JIT, “Unfortunately it is not possible for me to visit Pakistan due to unavoidable circumstances ….. I suggest that the members of the JIT may visit me in Doha at a mutually agreeable date.”
Report claims that due to importance of that evidence it was decided that JIT members may travel to Qatar to record the statement and the Qatari prince was offered to give his statement on June 28 or June 29 in the Pakistan High Commission in Doha, Qatar.
Responding that offer [or the third summons], the Qatari prince instead of confirming the dates for the interview stated: “I wish to obtain an acknowledgment from you (JIT) that I am not subject to the jurisdiction and the laws of Pakistan and that you confirm that I am not subject to any investigation or required to appear before any court of law or tribunal for any purpose whatsoever.”
However, he expressed his willingness to meet the JIT members in Doha. To that JIT sent him a detailed response answering his apprehensions and explaining legal issues.
Responding the fourth and final summons, the Qatari prince wrote, “I reiterate that I don’t recognise, and am not subject to jurisdiction of Pakistani laws and Pakistani courts in any manner whatsoever. Your (JIT) statement that I have accepted and submitted to the jurisdiction of Pakistani laws and courts is inappropriate and factually incorrect.”
With that statement he once again asked the JIT to come to Doha and meet him.
The JIT concluded that Qatari prince has adopted an evasive and evidently disingenuous stance with respect to his willingness to cooperate. His last letter was received literally, less than 72 hours before the final report of the JIT.
“Besides employing dilatory tactics, Mr Thani has also categorically refused to recognise to be subject to the jurisdiction of Pakistani laws and Pakistani court in any manner whatsoever.
“Mr Thani has never indicated that he has or will be providing any documentation to substantiate the contents of the letters rather he simply offered to verify in person that he did sign the said letters and that he stands by their content but without any further elaboration at all.”
Finally, the JIT stated that due to availability of plethora of evidence, recording of the statement of Hamad alThani has become inconsequential.