Today's Paper | March 31, 2023

Updated 16 Nov, 2022 07:46am

Buyer claims he paid Farah Khan $2m to buy Toshakhana gifts

KARACHI: Dubai-based businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor claimed on Tuesday that the PTI government sold an expensive Graff wristwatch — gifted to former premier Imran Khan by Saudi Crown Prince Moham­mad Bin Salman — for $2 million, worth approximately Rs280m at the time of sale in 2019.

The Toshakhana issue over the sale of state gifts received by Imran Khan became a major sticking point in national politics after the Election Commission of Pakistan disqualified the PTI chief for making “false statements and incorrect declaration”.

After months of evading the topic, Mr Khan admitted in a written reply on Sept 8 that he had sold at least four presents he had received during his tenure as the prime minister.

“In March 2019, former accoun­ta­bility minister Shahzad Akbar said that he had a set of watches and if I was interested, I should reach out to Farah [Khan] (a close aide of Imran’s wife Bushra Bibi) as she needed help and didn’t have any asset buyer,” Mr Zahoor said in an interview with Geo News’ Shahzeb Khanzada.

Says he negotiated price down from $4-5m; Shahzad Akbar denies ever meeting Umar Farooq Zahoor

The gifts mentioned include a diamond MasterGraff Tourbillon Minute Repeater with Makkah map dial GM2751, diamond cufflinks with 2.12ct H IF and 2.11ct I IF round diamonds GR46899, a diamond gent’s ring 7.20cts, VVSl rose gold pen set with pave diamonds and an enamel Makkah Map.

Mr Zahoor is said to be an influential business personality and is apparently wanted by Norway, Switzerland, Turkiye and Pakistan since 2009-10 over various financial and other crimes.

The businessman also stands accused of taking his minor daughters abroad illegally after obtaining their passports under fictitious names and parentage, even though the Lahore High Court (LHC) had already ordered that his name be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

In the interview on Tuesday, Mr Zahoor claimed that he met Farah Khan in Dubai and was instantly interested because the items were “rare and priceless”.

“[She] told me the history of the watch and said that they were gifted to Imran Khan by the Saudi prince. She said she wanted to sell these on Imran and his wife’s behalf,” he said.

Mr Zahoor recalled that he was in awe after seeing the watch because it was a “limited edition piece, very rare in the world”. He said he got an appraisal of the watch done as well.

“They [the PTI] wanted to sell the watch for $4 to $5 million, but after negotiations, I purchased it for $2 million,” he said, adding that the payments were made in cash on Farah Khan’s insistence.

“As soon as the payment was made, [she] told [Shahzad] Akbar over the phone that the deal was through and thanked him for introducing her to me. Mr Akbar thanked me for buying the Toshakhana gifts and requested that I don’t speak about this matter to anyone. I agreed.”

During the broadcast on Geo News, Mr Zahoor also showed the watch and repeatedly insisted that it was genuine. He also offered to provide further details if the matter was probed.

He also alleged that Shahzad Akbar had tried to blackmail him following the court battle between the businessman and his ex-wife Sophia Mirza.

In a late-night tweet on Tuesday, Mr Akbar denied that he had ever met or talked to Mr Zahoor.

“It is sad that they are using a person against Imran Khan, whose citizenship has been revoked by Norway due to his crimes, who is wanted by Interpol, who has committed fraud in various countries and who has smuggled his daughters to Dubai using forged documents,” he said.

He also claimed that a “false case” had been registered on Mr Zahoor’s complaint last month in Islamabad’s Secretariat police station against him and the entire team of a former FIA director who was investigating a money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Mr Akbar insisted that the FIR was lodged unlawfully since Mr Zahoor was out of the country.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2022

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