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(Left) Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan dance and celebrate the accountability court’s verdict on Friday in Karachi. (Right) Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supporters protest outside the court in Islamabad.—White Star
(Left) Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan dance and celebrate the accountability court’s verdict on Friday in Karachi. (Right) Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supporters protest outside the court in Islamabad.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court, which convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members in the Avenfield properties reference on Friday, described the entire Sharif family — daughter Maryam and sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz and their father — as one “monolith”.

“Thus the accused Nawaz Sharif cannot disassociate by oral assertions that he has got no connection with the upscale London Avenfield flats,” observed accountability court Judge Mohammad Bashir in his 174-page damning verdict that sentenced Mr Sharif to 10 years, Maryam to seven years and her husband retired Capt Muhammad Safdar to one year in prison.

“It was difficult to dig out actual owner/beneficial of offshore companies formed in the tax heaven jurisdiction of the British Virgin Island (BVI) due to the rules and regulations prevailing there,” the verdict said, adding that Mr Sharif had distanced himself from any transaction in respect of the Avenfield properties by saying that he had no concern with it.

“But the fact suggests that Nawaz Sharif was the chairman of the Capital FZE — a firm owned by his son Hussain Nawaz. And as per the statement of PW16 Wajid Zia — the head of the six-man JIT — Deutche Bank provided a loan to Coomber Company which advanced the loan to Que Holding Limited owned by Hassan Nawaz which further provided the funding to the Quint Paddington during the year 2008. The same company Quint Paddington was also provided a loan of pounds 614,000 by Capital FZE in which the accused [Nawaz Sharif] was an employee.

Judgement says story of investment with Qatari royal family not convincing

“The ages of children namely Hussain, Mariam and Hassan in 1993 when the Avenfield apartments were purchased were about 20 years, 18 years and 16 years respectively and were studying in those days and were dependents financially and thus could not have purchased the Park Lane flats without financial assistance of their father,” Judge Bashir said.

The judgement also said that the story of investment with the Qatari royal family was not convincing, adding that Mr Sharif had remained holder of public offices as Punjab chief minister, finance minister and thrice prime minister and member of the National Assembly. Generally, children were considered dependent on their parents, it said.

Likewise, the sudden appearance of letters from the Al-Thani family was also managed, the judgement said, adding that the prosecution’s documents showed that Mariam was beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments even prior to 2006.

The two letters of Hamid bin Jasim Al-Thani were hearsay, the judgement held, adding that in the letters the writer had used the word that “I was informed”, “I understand at that time” and “I can recall that”.

“These letters cannot give any benefit to the accused in view of these words without any supporting documents which could have been produced by the accused or Hamid bin Jasim,” the judgement said. Similarly, it added, the Joint Investigation Team constituted on the orders of the Supreme Court had tried to record the statement of Hamid bin Jasim, but he was not cooperative and was asking for a questionnaire when no questionnaire could have been prepared for the relevant material, record and documents because Hamid bin Jasim was the best person to enlist such documents. Dispatching such questionnaire would have meant confining the scope of JIT, the order said.

“The accused namely Hussain, Mariam and Hassan were not financially sound during the years 1993, 1995 and 1996 when the flats 16, 16A, 17 and 17A were purchased through offshore companies, the beneficial owner of which was Mariam Nawaz,” Judge Bashir wrote. Hence, he said, Mr Sharif was also responsible to account for the properties in the name of his son/daughter during their tender ages.

The verdict said that it was also in evidence that Mr Sharif used to reside in these apartments, adding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing the possession by the accused of Avenfield apartments even during the nineties and admittedly the accused and his family were in possession of the same at present.

It said the response of the money laundering reporting officer of Mossack Fonseca regarding offshore companies Nescoll Ltd and Nielson Enterprises which were duly certified by FIA stated that the beneficial owner of the company was Mariam Nawaz because it had the address of Saroor Palace, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where she used to reside.

“When the documents established that Mariam was the beneficial owner of the companies, she was also claiming herself to be the trustee of these companies,” Judge Bashir said, adding that she should have produced documents if any to prove to the contrary, meaning thereby that she had no such document and she in fact was the beneficial owner of the companies.

The judge said that a Dec 3, 2005 letter of the assistant general manager of the Samba financial group to Minerva Services Limited also showed that Mariam was one of their valued customers in Samba, besides her address of Saroor Palace, Jeddah, was also mentioned in that letter.

This letter indicated that accused Mariam was connected with Avenfield apartments before 2006, the judgement said, adding that to rebut this assertion Mariam should have placed detailed documents of both the companies.

Referring to the trust deed, Judge Bashir said it was sent to handwriting expert Robert Radley by the JIT and his report suggested that font “Calibri” was not commercially available until Jan 31, 2007. Therefore, the trust deed must have been prepared after this date.

Mariam in her reply to the question posed under section 342 of CrPC had held that it was a malicious opinion that Calibri font was not available even as early as 2005.

The judgement said Mr Radley had explained that Calibri was available for testing purposes, and not for commercial purposes. Thus it was clear that the trust deed was filed to mislead the court and was not prepared in February 2006 as noted on the trust deed, the verdict said.

Read the complete judgement

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2018