Likening the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen's case to the Panama Papers case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked Tareen's counsel to explain how the two cases were different.
A three-member apex bench ─ headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab ─ was hearing a petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi which seeks the disqualification of Tareen and PTI Chairman Imran Khan over the alleged non-disclosure of assets, existence of offshore companies, as well as receiving foreign funding for PTI.
The CJP asked Tareen's lawyer to explain how his client's case was different from Panama Papers case — in which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified as the prime minister for holding an undisclosed work permit.
"Akram Sheikh [Abbasi's lawyer] says Imran Khan's case is similar to Panama Papers case because he did not declare his assets."
Advocate Sikandar Basheer Mohmand said that while the case against Nawaz was strong as he had accepted being an employee and was liable to receive a salary, the case against his client was very weak.
The case against Tareen is not for possessing assets beyond known sources of income and unlike Hussain Nawaz, he is not the beneficial owner of the trust.
Jahangir Tareen has presented all the documents to the court and informed it of his sources of income, Mohmand said.
Chairman NAB had refused to investigate the issue [in Panama Papers case], he said, adding that the court could make a joint investigation team if it thinks there is a prima facie case.
"What is dishonesty in your opinion?" the CJP asked Mohmand when he said that lack of perfection in any matter cannot be considered dishonesty.
"Serious violation of the law can be considered dishonesty but breaking the signal cannot be called dishonesty," Mohmand responded.
Money sent abroad
Tareen's counsel on Wednesday reiterated that the money sent abroad by his client was sent legally through banks.
Providing the court with the breakdown of the money sent to Britain, Mohmand informed the court that Tareen sent 2.5 million pounds in 2011, 0.5m pounds in 2012 and $1.1m in 2014. All of these transactions happened through banks and are documented, he said.
A loan worth 2m pounds was obtained from EFG Bank, of which 1.5m pounds are still payable, he said. On a question regarding who paid the loan back, Mohmand said that Tareen transferred the amount to the offshore company.
He also said that Hyde House — the property in question — is not Tareen's asset legally and he was ready to present the records of the offshore company's accounts if the court wants to see them.
Hanif Abbasi's counsel Aazid Nafees pointed out that the amount was transferred to the offshore company and not the trust's account. Mohmand responded that the transactions were shown in the tax records and that it was the company, Shiny View Limited, which had obtained the loan.
The CJP observed that the transactions show that money laundering had not taken place and that the issue raised by the petitioner was of non-declaration of the offshore company.
He said that the court needed to judge Tareen's honesty in the case and that there was no apparent dishonesty in the transactions related to the property in Britain.
Gifts to children
Abbasi's counsel also raised the issue of Tareen giving gifts worth millions to his children. Mohmand responded that taxes had already been paid on the amount sent as gifts.
The CJP observed that there was no harm in giving away gifts on which tax has already been paid. He also asked whether a transfer of gifts can be classified as dishonesty under Article 184 (3), at which Mohmand said that the court cannot declare someone dishonest on lawful actions.
"Why did Jahangir Tareen gift Rs525m to his children in the same year in which he had received Rs109m in gifts?" Justice Arab asked. Tareen's counsel maintained that the transactions happened because Tareen required funds.
Justice Bandial observed that the trust and Tareen's children's assets were not declared in his wealth statement. "What will Jahangir Tareen get once the trust is dissolved?" he asked.
Whatever Tareen receives once the trust is dissolved will be his asset, but a trust cannot be dissolved without a court order, Mohmand said. Tareen's children are not his dependents so it is not necessary to declare their assets.
The property is used for residential purposes, Mohmand answered when asked about whether Tareen stays there on his visits to UK.
Meanwhile, Justice Bandial commented that Tareen's answer on the issue of the land's lease was weak.
Mohmand, however, disagreed, saying that the matter was already pending at the relevant forum.
The CJP agreed with Justice Bandial's observation and said that no solid evidence has been presented regarding the agricultural land which was discussed in the earlier hearings.
In an earlier hearing, the court remained focused on the 18,566 acres of land which, according to Tareen's lawyer, was leased by his client in 2010. Tareen had earned around Rs1.6 billion agricultural income from the said land, but the land had not been declared in the election forms.
The court adjourned the hearing until November 9 after Tareen's lawyer completed his arguments.