ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has claimed that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court (SC) in the Panama Papers case misled the UAE authorities to get the desired reply on the request for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).

Recording testimony under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in the Avenfield Properties reference on Tuesday, Mr Sharif said in response to a question put to him by the accountability court that “it is come on record, there is no LC [letter of credit] for transportation of scrap, machinery of Al-Ahli Steel Mills from Dubai to KSA as per our claim”.

“JIT members deliberately misled the Dubai authorities,” he added.

According to him, the contents of the LC show that these pertained to transportation of second-hand machinery from Sharjah to Saudi Arabia and not of scrap from Dubai to KSA.

He said the JIT did this “to obtain a report which is inherently defective besides being inadmissible in evidence”.

He further said that Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani was ready to join the proceedings of the JIT but it did not record his statement.

Mr Sharif on Monday denied ownership of the London properties and told the court that he had not been privy to any transactions for the acquisition of the properties.

Claims Qatari prince was ready to testify, but JIT did not record his statement

Mr Sharif said even though he was not involved in any transaction or correspondence regarding the investment with the Qatari royal family, the record, however, “clearly shows that Qatari prince never avoided joining the JIT’s proceeding”.

In response to another question put to him by the court that the Qatari prince did not join investigation on his instigation and persuasion, the former PM replied that there are “evidence on record unequivocally establishes that Wajid Zia and the JIT members deliberately and maliciously manoeuvred not to examine Hamad bin Jassim in support of his letters, and Wajid Zia even resorted to blatant lies to justify this glaring omission”.

Mr Sharif claimed that Al-Thani actually “showed willingness to meet the JIT but at his palace in Qatar rather than in Pakistan or the Pakistani embassy”.

Regarding the money trail of the London flats, Mr Sharif testified that “I have no personal knowledge of any event and transaction relating to Dubai Steel Mills. I have seen copies of these agreements. However, I never participated in any event and don’t have personal knowledge.”

Nonetheless, “the Qatari prince has responded to each of the letters and confirmed the veracity of the content submitted before the Supreme Court,” Mr Sharif said.

It may be mentioned that Al-Thani had stated that the London properties were handed over to the Sharif family out of a settlement stemming from a sum of AED12 million which the Sharif family had invested with them in 1980.

Mr Sharif reiterated that he had no involvement or association with the acquisition of the London apartments, adding that there was nothing on record or in the title of land register that London properties had ever been in his name.

The former PM also told the court that he was neither a beneficiary nor the real owner of offshore companies Nescoll and Nielsen.

Mr Sharif told the accountability court that UK solicitor Akhtar Riaz Raja had sent the photocopies of two trust deeds related to the aforementioned offshore companies to forensic expert Robert William Radley.

He further said that despite the fact that the photocopy of a document could not be forensically examined, Mr Radley, “with ulterior motive, proceeded to prepare the report instead of regretting to examine the photocopies sent via email”.

It is worth mentioning that Mr Radley had called the veracity of the trust deed into question. Among his reservations were the observations that it had been written in the Calibri font, which was not commercially available at that time, and some overwriting on the date the trust deed was supposed to have been signed.

Mr Sharif said that Jeremy Freeman, another UK solicitor, in January 2017 had admitted and confirmed the genuineness of the trust deed but neither Raja nor any member of the JIT or National Accountability Bureau made any effort to obtain the copies of the trust deed from him.

Maryam complains of manipulated media coverage Meanwhile, Maryam Nawaz said that some TV channels were trying to manipulate the coverage of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) rallies.

Talking to reporters before the start of the court’s proceeding, she said that some TV channels were not giving proper coverage to Mr Sharif. “Thanks to social media, people are getting true picture of the events,” she added.

“I have noticed that some TV channels use a-few-hours-old footage of participants during live coverage of speeches of PML-N leaders in the party’s rallies in a bid to give an impression that a small number of people have attended the event,” she said.

“I must appreciate my social media team that it uploads on social media sites the complete coverage of the event — arrival, speeches and departure,” she said, adding that members of the PML-N social media team deserved appreciation.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2018