ISLAMABAD: The counsel for Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) secretary general Jahangir Tareen admitted before the Supreme Court on Thursday that his client had established an offshore company under British Virgin Islands laws in 2011 and that the company owned a residential property in Berkshire, UK, for the use of his four children, who were beneficial owners of the property.

Incorporated in April 27, 2011, the offshore company, Shiny View Limited, was controlled by another company, EFG Nominees Ltd, registered under the Jersey of the Channel Island (UK) laws, which was a trustee of a trust namely The Random Trust, said Advocate Sikandar Bashir Mohmand. The trust was established on May 5, 2011.

The counsel was defending Mr Tareen before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar that had taken up the petition of PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi against Mr Tareen over non-disclosure of assets, existence of off-shore companies and the PTI being a foreign-aided party.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court had sought details about the ownership and creation of the off-shore company and the trust, asking who were the owners of the company and how money was sent abroad to establish the company.

The firm owns a residential property for use of PTI leader’s children

The counsel said that Mr Tareen did not possess any document relating to the property and added that he had contributed three million British pounds from 2011 to 2012 and $1m in 2014 as gifts to his children to funding the trust. The amounts were reflected in income tax returns and wealth statements of the PTI leader and the money earned in Pakistan was remitted in foreign exchange through official banking channels after paying taxes, the lawyer added.

He said that Mr Tareen’s children — Ali Tareen, Mehar Tareen, Sahar Tareen and Mariam Khan Tareen — were beneficial owners of the trust and their father was the settler of the trust.

That was a maze-like situation, the chief justice observed and said that the matter might require an investigation similar to what had been conducted in another case, an apparent reference the Panama Papers case, to ascertain how the trust was created, what the amount of mortgage was, how much money was contributed by Mr Tareen to the creation of the funds, etc.

The chief justice recalled that the petitioner had accused Mr Tareen of owning the property because his children were his dependants and alleged that the property was not declared in nomination forms of the PTI leader.

He asked Mr Tareen’s lawyer to submit details regarding the size of the residential property.

The chief justice said that it was not an appeal but original proceeding and inquisitorial in nature, adding that the court was not sure now whether it needed further investigation.

He asked the lawyer to furnish in 10 days the trust deed and income tax returns of Mr Tareen’s children to determine whether the gifts sent to them by their father were received by the children or not.

However, Muhammad Akram Sheikh, representing the petitioner in the case of PTI chief Imran Khan, requested the court to order that all documents should come from verified and credible sources and not like the money trail of Mr Khan that had come from banks which had been closed now.

Mr Mohmand assured the court that he would remove cobwebs to satisfy the court.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that no one was pointing fingers (at Mr Tereen) rather everybody appreciated that he was one of the highest taxpayers.

But what petitioner was claiming was that Mr Tareen had entirely funded the creation of the trust because the children were his dependants, the judge said and added that in fact the PTI leader was the beneficial owner of the property through his children.

When the chief justice inquired about the ages of the children, the counsel replied that they were independent wealthy individuals who constantly filed income tax returns.

Earlier, Azim Nafees, appearing on behalf of Mr Abbasi, argued that there were discrepancies in the amounts declared in the income tax returns and the nomination papers of Mr Tareen.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2017

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