ISLAMABAD: Senior counsel Naeem Bokhari representing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan argued on Thursday before the Supreme Court that availing of the tax amnesty scheme of 2000 under which his client revealed the purchase of Draycott flat in London was not dishonesty.

“And if it is dishonesty then all those who availed the same were equally dishonest,” he emphasised.

Headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the bench is hearing a petition of local Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hanif Abbasi seeking disqualification of Imran Khan and PTI secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen over non-disclosure of assets, existence of their offshore companies as well as the PTI being a foreign-aided party.

By availing the tax amnesty scheme of 2000 Mr Khan had disclosed ownership of a flat he purchased in 1983 in London from the proceeds he earned as a professional cricketer while playing abroad.

PTI chief obtains documents about his earnings from Sussex County

During the proceedings Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked the counsel to explain the criteria which triggered Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution that deal with the qualification and disqualification of the members of parliament.

The court reminded the counsel that he still had to furnish the documents showing the purchase of the London flat. Mr Bokhari clarified that he had received some documents late on Wednesday night and was still receiving from other sources to explain the mode of payment of 117,000 pounds for the purchase of the flat.

His associate Sikandar Bashir Mohmand, however, explained that Mr Khan had written emails and we have obtained documents from the Sussex County and expected to receive from other counties as well which showed that 117,000 pounds was the total amount of the flat for which a mortgage of 55,000 to 60,000 pounds was created that got redeemed by the solicitor at certain point of time.

The associate assured the bench that these were very old documents and difficult to obtain, but they were making their utmost endeavour to get these as soon as possible and then furnish the same before the Supreme Court.

Referring to the observations made by Mr Bokhari during the July 11 hearing that the chief justice seemed not happy with him, the chief justice observed that he was not angry with the counsel but said the court had noted that documents to establish the purchase of the London flat were coming before the court piecemeal.

The court then asked the counsel to explain in clear terms when the complete documents would be filed after which except the ones which the court would ask for no additional papers would be allowed to be submitted.

Fraud accusation

The direction came when the petitioner’s counsel, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, wondered before the court how he could start rebutting the arguments of the respondents if the documents kept pouring in.

The counsel, however, emphasised that his case revolved around the fact that Mr Khan allegedly committed a fraud — a term which covered everything. To substantiate, the counsel argued that his entire case was that the London flat did not belong to Mr Khan but to the offshore company Niazi Services Limited (NSL) — an entity Mr Khan created to avoid tax and which was not disclosed even when he availed the amnesty scheme.

The chief justice reminded the counsel that the PTI was submitting documents about the purchase of the London flat not because the petitioner had demanded this but because this question was imposed by the court to satisfy itself that no money was laundered for the purchase of the property in London after Mr Khan admitted that he was the beneficial owner of the flat.

Mr Bokhari argued that Mr Khan did not disclose the ownership of property to the Federal Board of Revenue prior to 2000 because he was not required to since he was living abroad, earned and paid taxes there. And when the scheme was availed all liabilities regarding income and wealth statements had been cleared, he said.

But the chief justice reminded the counsel that by 1989 Mr Khan was a resident Pakistani and the earnings had to be disclosed whereas according to the petitioner the act of not disclosing the property in Pakistan amounted to deceit since concealment of something was deceitful.

Mr Bokhari reminded that after the Panama controversy, the FBR had also issued a notice to his client and they were looking into the issue.

Consultant assists court

Petitioner’s counsel Mohammad Akram Sheikh says his entire case is that the London flat does not belong to Imran Khan but to his offshore company Niazi Services Limited.
Petitioner’s counsel Mohammad Akram Sheikh says his entire case is that the London flat does not belong to Imran Khan but to his offshore company Niazi Services Limited.

On the request of Akram Sheikh the court also heard Chartered Accountant Ashfaq Tola who is also a member of the Tax Reforms Commission. Mr Tola explained the definition of a resident Pakistani and who was non-resident in the light of the Income Tax Act, 1922, Income Tax Ordinance, 1979 and that of 2001 for the purpose of declaration of income and wealth statements and liabilities.

He also explained that tax amnesty could only be availed by a person who owned an asset or property but not by the one who created an artificial company like an offshore as a vehicle to own the property.

During the proceedings the chief justice wondered whether the consultant wanted to get a declaration against the respondent for not being “sadiq and ameen” (honest and sagacious) when the court had not reached that stage where the same had been proved.

At another point the chief justice observed how an ordinary citizen like Mr Khan would understand the requirements of tax issues when the court itself was facing difficulty in understanding and the consultant was labouring to explain.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2017

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