ISLAMABAD: Questioning the way the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is conducting the Panama Papers probe, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Monday again disowned the confessional statement he signed in the year 2000, linking the Sharif family with money laundering in the Hudaibya Paper Mills case.
The minister, who is also the father-in-law of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s younger daughter, is the eighth member of the extended Sharif family to be summoned for questioning by the JIT.
Hassan Nawaz, the PM’s younger son, also appeared before the JIT on Monday in connection with the money laundering probe, which has entered its final week.
Speaking to reporters outside the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA), Mr Dar termed the confession he signed 17 years ago “a piece of trash”.
Finance minister launches personal attack on Imran; Kirmani calls on JIT to record Qatari prince’s statement
“I did not want to sign that statement, but someone advised me to put my signature on it so that I may save myself,” he said, adding that since Islam also allows one to compromise on certain principles in order to save one’s life, he turned approver while in custody.
Mr Dar was one of the accused in the Hudaibya Paper Mills corruption reference, instituted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) soon after the October 1999 military coup that toppled Nawaz Sharif’s government.
He later turned approver and filed an application with the then NAB chairman on April 20, 2000, and asked for a pardon.
In his statement, Mr Dar stated: “I have been cited as one of the accused persons. The detailed statement of facts, circumstances and events etc leading to accumulation of Rs642 million in the accounts of HPML is enclosed herewith for your kind perusal and consideration.”
But after the re-emergence of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in national politics in 2007, Mr Dar backtracked from his statement.
However, talking to reporters outside the FJA, Mr Dar said that after the Lahore High Court ordered the accountability court to quash the reference in 2013, the deputy prosecutor general and prosecutor general did not recommend filing an appeal due to a want of evidence in the matter. The superior courts had also rejected the confessional statement as valid evidence, he said.
On June 29, the JIT recorded the statement of former NAB Chairman Syed Mohammad Amjad, who was NAB chief when Mr Dar turned approver. In fact, the formal pardon granted to Mr Dar was approved by Mr Amjad himself.
The finance minister, who was driven to the FJA by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, told mediapersons that he had provided the JIT with each and every detail of the London properties.
But he criticised the investigators who, he said, had deviated from the standard operating procedures (SOPs) laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Arsalan Iftikhar, the son for former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
Mr Dar explained that the Supreme Court ordered the investigation team to first send a questionnaire to the witnesses and then issue a summons to those whose response was deemed unsatisfactory.
“It is unfair if there is a discriminatory law for the son of a judge and for the kin of others,” he said, criticising the JIT for summoning the PM’s daughter and urged investigators to review their decision.
Criticism of Imran Khan
The finance minister also devoted a considerable portion of his remarks to criticism of the PML-N’s arch-rival, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan.
He claimed that Mr Khan would seek donations for the Shaukat Khanum Cancer hospital through his (Dar’s) sons, adding that he had contributed to the cause from 1993 to 2008.
The minister alleged that he had stopped donating to Mr Khan’s charity after the accounting firm, Ferguson, claimed in a report that Mr Khan was prone to gambling.
Criticising the way the PM’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, had been summoned by the JIT, he said that Mr Khan’s sisters, Uzma and Aleema, were also owners of the offshore company Niazi Services, but he would not want them to be summoned in a court of law.
He also claimed that Mr Khan was obsequious towards Gen Musharraf and, along with his “Jewish beauty” — a reference to Jemima Khan — wanted to become prime minister.
Without naming Mr Khan’s daughter, Tyrian White, Mr Dar said: “She is also our daughter. Jemima has taken over her guardianship, but if you drag our children into politics, we will reciprocate”.
Earlier, the PM’s younger son Hassan Nawaz also spoke to reporters after his third appearance before the JIT, saying he had been kept waiting for hours and then questioned for a long time.
“I asked the JIT to inform me of the offence for which I am being questioned,” he said, adding that the investigation team did not tell him the reason why he was summoned.
Citing the Supreme Court’s April 20 verdict, Hassan said the court had asked the JIT to investigate how he established his business in the UK.
“I provided them with each and every detail of my business, including loan agreements with different banks,” he claimed.
“Legally, I am not bound to appear before the JIT,” he said, adding that his father had asked him to extend full cooperation to the team.
“I am a UK resident, where I have been running business for 15 years. Had there been any complaint of tax evasion or any other wrongdoing, the British government would have proceeded against me,” he concluded.
Speaking to the media outside the FJA, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Asif Kirmani said the investigation would be inconclusive if the JIT did not record the statement of Qatari prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabar Al-Thani.
The prince had submitted a letter to the Supreme Court, claiming that the London properties were given to the Sharif family as part of a business settlement.
The Qatari prince has reportedly written to the JIT, offering them the option to record his statement at his palace.
The JIT had asked him to record his statement, either through video link or at the Pakistani embassy in Qatar.
Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2017