A day after the Supreme Court (SC) pointedly inquired about Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s money trail, the premier’s counsel reiterated that his client had presented details of all his assets to the joint investigation team (JIT) that was mandated to probe allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family.
Senior counsel Khawaja Harris on Wednesday told the three-member apex bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, that the prime minister had provided details of all assets and sources of income in the form of tax returns.
“We will take a decision after looking at all the evidence,” Justice Ejaz Afzal told Harris as he completed his arguments before the bench. “Bring the [money trail] record and the discussion on the documents will end.”
Ishaq Dar’s lawyer begins arguments
“Have you also brought a Qatari letter with you?” Justice Azmat Saeed asked Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s lawyer, Tariq Hasan, as he began his arguments before the bench.
The lawyer’s defence bore similarities to the arguments presented by Harris, as he told the court that the JIT had exceeded its mandate. An objection to the JIT’s report was included in the documents submitted to the apex court on Dar’s behalf on Monday.
“If you have so many objections, you should go to the trial court,” Justice Azmat Saeed remarked.
Hasan alleged that Dar had been “dragged” into the case by the JIT and did not actually have any direct involvement, to which Justice Ijazul Ahsan replied, “I can tell you Ishaq Dar’s connection to this case.” The name of the finance minister’s nephew is included in the transactions relating to the Gulf Steel Mills, the judge elaborated, adding that money from the Hill Metal Establishment was transferred to the minister’s son, Ali Dar.
The judges quizzed the lawyer on his statement that the JIT had been “dishonest” in its investigations and hadn’t reviewed the submitted documents. “You had said that you did not submit any documents, yet you’re giving these statements,” said Justice Ijazul Ahsan, asking the lawyer to submit further documents at the next hearing (Thursday).
Dar’s confession in Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference
Echoing the objection by the PM’s lawyer, Hasan said that the JIT did not have the mandate to recommend reopening cases.
Referring to the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference, Justice Azmat Saeed pointed out that Ishaq Dar had refused to accept his confessional statement in the reference that was recorded before a district magistrate in Lahore on April 25, 2000, as his own. In the statement, Dar had reportedly admitted to money laundering of $14.86 million, and opening two bank accounts under the names of Sikandar Masood Qazi and Talat Masood Qazi for Nawaz Sharif’s brother.
During the initial Panamagate case hearing, Dar and his lawyers had maintained that the statement was “written under duress.” Speaking to the media after his appearance before the JIT, Dar had said that the statement was not written by him.
“If the confessional statement is deemed false, then the pardon [in the case] will also be unacceptable,” said the judge.
Sharif family’s foreign properties
During his arguments on Wednesday morning, Harris said that according to the laws of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), “an individual cannot be held accountable for the properties and assets that are in the name of his wife and children.” He added that the PM’s relatives had also not concealed any assets.
In reference to the judges’ observation that the PM had remained evasive in answering the questions put forward by the JIT, Harris responded that the team had not inquired about any other properties, maintaining that his client had not concealed any assets, nor did he own any benami properties.
“The real question is where did the money for [the Sharif family’s] properties in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and London come from?”Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked. “We have not yet received an answer to this fundamental question.”
The judges told the lawyer that Chapter Four (Gulf Steel Mills/Gifts) of the JIT’s report contains “dangerous” documents and talks about the trust deed of the four Avenfield flats in London’s Park Lane neighbourhood, executed between Maryam Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz in February 2006, which was declared false by the JIT in its report over.