British Virgin Islands turn down JIT request

Updated July 21, 2017

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The head of the JIT Wajid Zia arrives at the Supreme Court to present a final report of the investigation probing allegations of money laundering against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. —AFP/File
The head of the JIT Wajid Zia arrives at the Supreme Court to present a final report of the investigation probing allegations of money laundering against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. —AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: In a fresh response, the British Virgin Islands’ (BVI) law officer has declined to assist the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in probing alleged offences committed by the two offshore companies — Nescoll Limited and Nielson Enterprises — that control the Sharifs’ four upscale London apartments.

The response from Sarah Potter-Wash­ington, Crown Counsel for the BVI Attorney General, came in res­po­nse to a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request from JIT head Wajid Zia. The request sought assistance in the confirmation, verification and certification of certain documents. The communication from the BVI Attorney Gen­eral’s Chambers is the second response to the JIT’s three earlier requests.

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In addition to the BVI correspondence, another letter from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani was also brought before the three-judge Supreme Court bench in sealed envelopes and was opened in the presence of both parties’ counsel.

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These documents were addressed to the JIT, but since the probe team has wrapped up its secretariat inside the Federal Judicial Academy, the letters were forwarded to the Supreme Court registrar.

In the first letter, the BVI law officer said that though the JIT had sought MLA assistance, it did not conform to the laws of the territory.

Explaining further, the latter said that the JIT’s summary of facts did not provide any background information, which showed a nexus between these companies and any alleged offence.

Moreover, the request does not show how these companies may have been involved in the inferred offence of corruption or corrupt practices, the letter said.

Besides the information provided, the request must show, prima facie, how the offence was committed and must also provide a copy, and not a quote, of the law relative to the offence committed.

The request also did not indicate clearly whether criminal investigations were ongoing or if any proceedings had commenced with respect to the companies and the beneficial owners of these companies.

Consequently, the BVI law officer said it was unable to render any assistance in response to the JIT’s request, but suggested that after these anomalies were rectified, a fresh request may be submitted for further consideration.

Similarly, the former Qatari prime minister explained in his fresh letter that the JIT’s insistence on jurisdiction was an irrelevant discussion and he would not enter into any further discourse or argument on the question of jurisdiction, since his stance on the matter was very clear.

The letter reiterated his earlier stance, that Sheikh Al Thani did not recognise the jurisdiction of Pakistani laws and courts in any manner whatsoever.

He contended that the JIT’s argument — that by writing to the Supreme Court, he had accepted and submitted to the jurisdiction of Pakistani laws and courts — was inappropriate and factually incorrect.

The earlier letters, which were submitted to the Supreme Court, provided certain factual information and do not in any manner depict that he had accepted any such jurisdiction, the letter explained.

Sheikh Al Thani also highlighted his willingness to meet the JIT in Doha. The two letters were also made available to all parties before the court.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2017