SC orders case against SECP Chairman; Seeks transcripts of statements of Saad Rafiq, Asif Kirmani and Talal Ch
A three – member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan proceeded with the Panama Papers case on Monday after the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) submitted its final probe report.
The report, spread over 10 volumes, was brought in two cartons, which were carried on a trolley into the apex court. The respondents and petitioners have been directed to approach the Supreme Court Registrar Office to acquire copies of the JIT’s final probe report, which will not include volume 10 of the report. The bench also ordered to provide the attorney general with a copy of the report.
In its report, the joint investigation team probing their offshore assets has recommended filing of reference against PM Nawaz Sharif and his sons with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“Failure on the part of all respondents to produce the requisite information confirming “known sources of income’ is prima facie tantamount to not being able to justify assets and the means of income,” the report read.
After the report’s submission, the bench, also including Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, ordered the registration of FIR against Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Chairman Zafar Hijazi.
The Federal Investigation Agency had informed the court over the weekend that its inquiry had found Hijazi guilty of tampering records of SECP’s probe into the Chaudhry Sugar Mills, owned by the Sharif family.
Regarding Hussain Nawaz’s plea to the special bench to form a judicial commission into the leaking of his JIT interrogation picture, the bench observed that the government may form a commission on the issue if it chooses to.
Justice Ejaz also ordered that the person who leaked the picture should be identified.
The JIT had earlier informed the bench that the person responsible for leaking the premier son’s picture, which went viral on social media last month, had been sent back to his parent department where appropriate action was taken against him.
Taking notice of news reports published in the Daily Jang and The News, the bench issued contempt of court notices to the Jang Group’s Editor in Chief Mir-Shakil-ur Rehman, publisher Mir Javed Rehman and The News reporter Ahmed Noorani. The bench has sought a clarification within seven days.
The bench also asked for transcripts of all speeches made in the last 60 days by PML-N’s Talal Chaudhry, Federal Railways Minister Saad Rafique, and the PM’s Special Assistant on Political Affairs Asif Kirmani, presumably to examine them for contemptuous content.
The JIT’s head, FIA Additional Director Wajid Zia, pleaded to the court not to make volume 10 of the report public, which will be used for further investigation.
The apex court said JIT members will now go back to their parent departments where they will have complete freedom to continue their duties. In case they are harassed, they should approach the Supreme Court, it observed further.
The hearing of the case has been adjourned till July 17.
Earlier, members of the JIT had arrived at the apex court amid tight security provided by Islamabad Capital Territory Police. Large cardboard boxes labelled ‘Evidence’ were carted into the SC as the JIT made their way into court.
The JIT report
The JIT report consists of statements recorded by PM Nawaz; Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif; the PM’s children Hussain, Hassan and Maryam Nawaz Sharif; son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar; PM’s cousin Tariq Shafi; friend Javed Kayani and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who is the father-in-law of the PM’s younger daughter, among other evidence.
The case hinges on two parallel money trails for the Sharif family’s apartments in London’s upscale Park Lane neighbourhood: one based on the Rehman Malik investigation, and the other provided by Hussain Nawaz to the apex court.
The Rehman Malik investigation of 1998 connected the purchase of the London properties with alleged money laundering.
Malik said that he had, during his time as an FIA official, compiled a report about decades ago on alleged money laundering by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members. The second money trail – a ‘forced confession’ of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case – is also being used to establish a case against the Sharif family.
Dar had claimed after his appearance at the JIT’s headquarters at the Federal Judicial Academy last month that the statement submitted before a magistrate on April 25, 2000 was not ‘written by his hand’.
The statement had alleged that Sharif brothers used the Hudaibiya Paper Mills as a cover for money laundering during the late 1990s.
This was why the JIT summoned almost all important characters named in both the Rehman Malik report and Dar’s ‘confession’. The JIT did not record the statement of former Qatari premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, who submitted two letters to the SC during the Panamagate case, which sought to explain the Sharif family’s businesses in Qatar.
Therefore, it is being assumed that the JIT will not consider the money trail provided by Hussain Nawaz, who was summoned by the JIT six times and examined for around 30 hours in all. The leadership of the ruling PML-N is visibly unhappy with this development, and makes no secret of its disdain for the report.
Top PML-N leaders had made it clear during a press conference last week that the ruling party would not accept the findings of the JIT if the statements of the former Qatari prime minister were not made part of the report.
The Panamagate case
Panama Papers leaks came to light in April last year after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca available to the public. The documents contained confidential attorney-client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities.
Eight offshore companies were reported to have links with the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif.