ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court observed in clear terms on Thursday that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, being a public office-holder, could get into trouble if his children failed to justify the source of the money that led to the acquisition of the four controversial London apartments.
“When they (Maryam, Hussain and Hassan Nawaz) failed to satisfy the court about the means for possessing the London apartments, the brunt has to be borne by the holder of public office,” observed Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the three-judge Supreme Court bench that has taken up the voluminous report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
The observation came when senior advocate Salman Akram Raja, who represents the PM’s children, argued that all investments and businesses were dealt with by Mian Sharif, and his grandchildren — none of whom held public office — were only the recipients of the funds.
Court seeks PM Sharif’s stance on Capital FZE; places onus of producing Qatari royal on Sharifs
“The recipient of questionable funds for which they have no answers,” retorted Justice Ijazul Ahsan, while Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed asked the counsel if he realised what he was saying.
Moreover, the court noted, the JIT had built a super-structure in its report and which was also deficient on many counts, but even it had not implicated the children in any wrongdoing.
The court was also perturbed by the response of the UAE’s Ministry of Justice, which had not acknowledged the stamp and seal used by the Dubai court in the notarisation of the tripartite sale proceeds agreement of 25pc shares of Ahli Steel Mills.
The documents procured under mutual legal assistance were statements of facts and more credible than the one being produced before the court, the judges observed.
The counsel, however, had no answer save that it might have been a mistake. He then asked to be allowed to go to Dubai to establish what had happened, saying that such gaps should have been taken up with Hussain when he appeared before the JIT five times.
Before adjourning the hearing until Friday — when the case is expected to be closed — the Supreme Court also asked the counsel to explain the prime minister’s position on Capital FZE, a new offshore company that had surfaced in the JIT report.
Before concluding proceedings, the judges first consulted amongst themselves, and then Justice Saeed asked the counsel, point-blank, where the funds for Capital FZE came from.
The counsel though said he would explain on Friday after consulting his clients, but assured the court that no salary was ever drawn from the company by the prime minister in his capacity as chairman of the board.
Was he entitled to draw a salary, Justice Khan asked, adding that if a person did some work and got a salary, it became part of his assets.
The court also reminded the counsel that 650,000 British pounds were also moved from FZE to the Flagship Investment Company.
The court also regretted that despite JIT requests, former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani was not inclined to come to the Pakistan embassy or answer questions via video link, and repeatedly insisted on having the JIT to come to Doha instead.
“He may not be photogenic,” Justice Ahsan wondered, adding that the matter ended when Sheikh Al Thani simply refused, saying he was not subject to Pakistani laws and courts.
“Should we all go to Doha, where even flights don’t go anymore?” quipped Justice Saeed.
In response, the counsel recalled the 2012 Arsalan Iftikhar case, where the apex court had held that the person being interrogated must be informed in advance about the accusations against him/her so that he/she might furnish answers.
Mr Raja insisted that information could have been sought from Sheikh Al Thani and, if necessary, the team should have travelled to Doha.
But Justice Ahsan highlighted that as a star witness — since the entire money trail presented by the Sharif family rested on him — it was the defence’s responsibility to produce him before the JIT.
The court was also upset over an earlier document presented before the court by another counsel regarding Coomber Tradings and Nescoll and Nielson, where identical documents were used and the trust deed was signed on Saturday in a country where it was not possible to seek official appointments on a holiday.
The court did not seem convinced by the explanation offered by the counsel on the Calibri font used in the trust deed and said that in countries such as England, law firms were extra cautious not to use beta versions that were not made available to them.
The court also asked Additional Attorney General Mohammad Waqar Rana about the punishment for presenting forged document to the Supreme Court. According to the AAG, the sentence was seven years in prison, but hastened to add that the parties should have the opportunity to explain their positions.
“It breaks my heart when I see such documents,” Justice Saeed regretted, saying that the law would take its course.
Mr Raja also presented a bill of export to establish that machinery did leave Abu Dhabi customs for Saudi Arabia after the liquidation of Ahli Steel.
But Justice Ahsan wondered why Abu Dhabi was chosen and why Dubai customs had no record of the transportation of the machinery, asking why the document was not presented earlier.
“That was because no one expressed any doubts earlier,” was the counsel’s response, adding that he should also be allowed to fill in the gaps that were never pointed out by the JIT.
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2017