ISLAMABAD: The counsel for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday attacked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his alleged misstatements before the nation, in which he claimed he had generated the money to buy the London flats by selling the Gulf Steel Mills in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Senior counsel Naeem Bokhari, representing PTI chief Imran Khan before a crowded Courtroom No 1, tried to establish before the five-judge Supreme Court bench that the Sharif family was left with no money after paying off their outstanding liabilities of 36 million dirhams through the sale of 75pc of the mill’s shares in 1978 and subsequent disposal of the remaining 25pc shares in 1980.
A Share Sale Contract between Abdullah Khalid Ahli, the buyer, M. Tariq Shafi, the seller and the PM’s cousin, and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the creditor, was presented by the counsel to establish that the Sharif family did not have a single penny after selling Gulf Steel.
There is not a single document showing any transaction or paper trail for the investment of 12 million dirhams in Saudi Arabia, Qatar or London. There is also no explanation for how the Azizia Steel Mills was established in Jeddah, and if a loan was secured, then how and from which bank, Mr Bokhari asked.
Judges ask PTI counsel to prove Sharifs owned London properties before 2006
At the outset, the counsel argued that the PM was guilty of evading taxes since he did not pay wealth tax, as established from the tax returns he submitted. In addition, Mr Bokhari claimed, the remittances he received from his son, Hassan Nawaz — who does not have a tax number — did not fall under the definition of a gift, as defined under the Income Tax Ordinance.
Similarly, the PM’s daughter Maryam Nawaz had always been his dependant and that her beneficial interest with the four flats had been established, Mr Bokhari argued.
Referring to the letter from former Qatari PM Hamad bin Jassim bin Javer Al Thani, Mr Bokhari argued that the letter had destroyed the PM’s credibility since its contents contradicted the stand he had taken in his three speeches. He added that the Qatari letter was also contrary to a 1999 interview of Hassan Nawaz by BBC’s Tim Sebastian.
The unstamped and unregistered trust deed that had surfaced also does not establish that Maryam was a trustee of the four flats, he claimed, assailing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry for failing to perform his duties and protecting the PM instead of following the money trail behind the purchase of the London properties.
Mr Bokhari said the NAB chairman deserved to be tried for alleged gross misconduct and dereliction of duty under Article 209 of the Constitution.
He argued that the Qatari letter was hearsay and entirely vague as it did not mention who had informed the prince about the transactions or business dealings of Mian Mohammad Sharif — the PM’s father — or what was the nature of their real estate business in Qatar. “This is vagueness at its finest,” the counsel said.
PTI chief Imran Khan, who was present in the courtroom, often came up to the rostrum to advise his counsel.
During the proceedings, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa asked the counsel to demonstrate how the PM and his family had connections to these properties prior to 2006.
But Mr Bokhari maintained that the Sharif family was the beneficial owner of the flats from day one. He is expected to continue on this point when the case resumes next Tuesday.
Earlier, when the counsel argued that in the past, courts had considered press clippings in their judgements, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed asked whether the court should also consider what is published in foreign newspapers about his client [Imran Khan] to be true.
Mr Bokhari then cited a 2011 interview of Maryam Nawaz by Sana Bucha, where the PM’s daughter denied owning any flats. He then highlighted a communication from Mossack Fonseca Reporting Officer J. Nizbeth Maduro to Errol George, director of the financial investigation agency of British Virgin Islands, on June 22, 2012, which states that Maryam was the beneficial owner of M/s Nielson Enterprises Ltd and Nescoll Ltd and that Minerva Services was the registered shareholder of these two companies.
But Justice Saeed countered, saying that no document had been produced by the defendants to explain the nature of Minerva Services Ltd or its holdings; or proved who owned this company and whether it was in the name of Hassan, Hussain or Mian Sharif.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2016