KARACHI: The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing money laundering allegations found Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “could not satisfactorily answer most of the questions” during his appearance on June 15.
The JIT report, submitted to the Supreme Court on Monday, said he was “evasive, speculative and non-cooperative”.
“He was generally evasive and seemed preoccupied during the interview,” the report said. “Major part of his statement was based on ‘hearsay’. He remained non-committal, speculative and at times non-cooperative while recording his statement before the JIT,” said the team’s analysis of the prime minister’s statement.
Editorial: From JIT to NAB
It went on to say that Prime Minister Sharif tried to “parry most of the questions” by giving indefinite answers or by stating that “he does not remember, ostensibly to conceal facts”.
Sharif insists his assets reflected in income tax returns, wealth statements
In his statement to the JIT, the prime minister gave details of his early life, his entry into politics and the offices he held during his three-decade-long political career.
He claimed that the assets he owned, possessed or had acquired “are, in their entirety, reflected in my income tax returns and wealth reconciliation statements”.
“I do not own or possess, nor have acquired any assets or interests therein other than those mentioned in my income tax returns and wealth reconciliation statements,” he stated.
He, however, informed the JIT that initially he had been a shareholder and/or director in one or more companies established by his late father in Pakistan. But for about three decades “I have not been director in any of those companies. In any case, I have not been actively involved in the business of any of those companies since 1985”.
“I became finance minister in 1981. I was not overseeing any businesses myself after 1981, although I may have been the director of some companies. I however disassociated myself from all businesses in 1998,” he said, adding: “As far as the meaning of disassociation from business is concerned, it is true that it is more in terms of disassociation from any management function, rather than in terms of holding financial interests in a company. After all how can you make a living if you disassociate yourself from the financial interest...”
Talking about the London properties, he said he had gone there in 1989 and in the 1990s and stayed in the Avenfield apartments. “I knew Hussain and then Hassan, who were studying in London, were living in those apartments. All the expenses related to their stay were met by the money my father used to send them. I know broadly that we were paying the ground rent, service charges and utilities but do not know whether rent was being paid or not. Hussain was dealing with these issues and he knows the most. I knew it was an arrangement made by Mr Al Thani and my father. I do not however know about how the bearer certificates were transferred.”
Mr Sharif informed the JIT that he did not refer to the investment between the Qatari family and his father in his speeches but clearly said that he would tell the details when the time came.
About a Guardian report that quoted his wife as saying that the Avenfield apartments were purchased for Hassan and Hussain in 2000 while they were studying in London, “my response is that sometimes these things are said because of lack of knowledge”, he said.
Regarding a huge sum of money gifted to him by his son Hussain, he said in the statement: “I do not find any issue with the fact that my son Hussain sends me money as gifts which I either spend myself or gift it to my daughter Maryam. It is foreign exchange coming into Pakistan and the money was sent through the official banking channels.”
Following are the questions asked by the JIT and the prime minister’s answers.
Q: In your speeches you had mentioned that all record relating to Azizia and Gulf Steel was available but later your counsel stated in the Supreme Court that no such record was available. Can you explain this contradiction?
A: I am not sure, maybe I had given the record to the speaker, but I am not sure about this.
Q: You have stated that you stand by whatever respondents 6, 7 and 8 have submitted before the Supreme Court of Pakistan during the proceedings of the case about Gulf Steel and Azizia etc. Did you personally see what they have submitted before the Supreme Court of Pakistan or your knowledge is based on family discussions?
A: I had not seen the submissions, my knowledge is based on the family discussions but I endorse whatever has been submitted by them.
Q: Do you have any other documents that you want to produce in addition to the ones you have brought today?
A: There are no further documents to be produced. We have already provided all the documents we had.
Q: In 1999, the Queens Bench Division had put a caution on the Avenfield properties which was removed on the basis of a settlement. What is your knowledge about the terms of the settlement?
A: I have heard about it but I do not know about the terms of settlement.
Q: You had referred to the settlement of family assets in 2005. Was the matter of investment of proceeds of Gulf Steel discussed especially with regards to the Avenfield properties?
A: Yes, perhaps it was discussed and since they had remained in the possession of Hassan and Hussain. I think Hassan is the owner but I’m not sure.
Q: Hussain claims to own the apartments now but practically Hassan has lived in one of the apartments from decades now. Don’t you find this a bit odd?
A: It is not unusual for brothers.
Q: Do you know about the trust deed signed between Mr Hussain Nawaz Sharif and Ms Maryam Nawaz Sharif with reference to the companies of Mr Hussain?
A: I have no knowledge of the trust deed signed by Mr Hussain Nawaz Sharif on behalf of Maryam (Nawaz) Safdar.
Q: Do you know Saeed Ahmed of National Bank of Pakistan and did you have any business with him?
A: I know Saeed Ahmed since a very long time but I do not have any business links with him.
Q: Do you know the Qazi family?
A: I do not know them. I meet a lot of people and do not remember them all.
Q: Do you know Sheikh Saeed?
A: Yes, I know him since a long time, but I do not have any business relationship with him.
Q: A settlement with NAB was carried out on your behalf in 2001-2 for the case of Hudabiya papers mills and payment was made through loans taken from Chaudhry and Ramzan mills. Please apprise us with the details of this settlement.
A: I do not know if there was a loan. I do not have any knowledge of this matter.
Q: Did you send any money abroad to any of your family members?
A: No I did not.
Q: Was a portion of money received from Hill Metals used for political funding?
A: No, but if I did, is it a crime?
Q: Would it not come under foreign funding?
No reply was made.
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2017