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ISLAMABAD: The joint investigation team (JIT) probing details of the London properties owned by the sons of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has sought help from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which originally uncovered the Panama Papers.

The JIT, led by a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) additional director general, invited journalist Umar Cheema to its secretariat at the Federal Judicial Academy on May 17.

Cheema is an investigative journalist and the only Pakistani who was part of the ICIJ team that worked on the Panama Papers for about ten months.

Though Cheema declined to comment, the sources privy to the JIT’s workings said the journalist, in his capacity as an ICIJ representative, was asked to help the team in reaching a conclusion.

Local journalist consulted; questionnaires sent to PM’s family

Sources said the JIT asked the journalist to explain the tools and means ICIJ applied to investigate the Panama Papers.

The JIT would not entirely rely on the ICIJ investigation since it does not have evidentiary value, but this information would give investigators some clues on how to obtain tangible evidence.

Sources said the journalist shared some information regarding the Panama Papers investigation, but most of the information had already been brought on the record before the Supreme Court during the hearing of Panamagate case.

The JIT also discussed the questions, which the Supreme Court had tasked it to answer, with the journalist and noted his input, sources said.

The Qatari letter by Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani also came under discussion.

According to its terms of reference, the JIT will probe how the Gulf Steel Mill come into being; what led to its sale; what happened to its liabilities and how did they reach Jeddah, Qatar and the UK; whether Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz had the means in the early 1990s to possess and purchase the flats; whether sudden appearance of the letters of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani is a myth or a reality… who, in fact, is the real and beneficial owner of M/s Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, how did Hill Metal Establishment come into existence; where did the money for Flagship Investment Limited and other companies set up/taken over by the son of the PM and where did the Working Capital for such companies come from and where do the huge sums running into millions gifted by respondent Hussain Nawaz to Nawaz Sharif drop in from.

The JIT is also in the process of hiring experts and foreign firms to collect evidence and obtain a forensic audit of the documents related to the London flats, owned by the children of the prime minister.

The JIT has already decided to send a detailed questionnaire through diplomatic channels to the Al-Thani family of Qatar to inquire about the offshore properties of the Sharif family.

However, sources said all the correspondence would be conducted through the attorney general’s office as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Sources said the JIT is likely to dispatch questionnaires to the prime minister, his sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, daughter Maryam Nawaz and Ishaq Dar in the coming days.

In the next stage, the sources claimed, the investigation team may summon them in case it found their replies unsatisfactory.

The apex court empowered has the JIT to summon any person under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1898, National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 and Federal Investigation Act, 1975.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017