Panama case: SC seeks evidence of London flats transfer

No record for Sharifs’ past business dealings, Counsel tells Supreme Court


The Supreme Court Wednesday resumed hearing the Panamagate case and Advocate Salman Akram Raja picked up his arguments where he had left them off.
After welcoming Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed , whose sudden illness had forced a suspension in the case’s daily hearings, Raja reminded the court that “this is neither a trial, nor the defendant a witness.”
“I will only argue this case based on the evidence present,” Raja, who represents Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, continued.
The record for the Sharif family’s business dealings for the last 40 to 45 years cannot be reproduced, the counsel said, as “it was lost during the 1999 martial law.”
He began with wishing Justice Azmat Saeed good health. He said that the Panama case had three aspects; the Prime Minister’s speech, official records, and steps taken by the Prime Minister.
In the last hearing on January 31, many questions were put to Hasan and Hussain Nawaz’s counsel regarding the London flats. Who owned the properties from 1993 to 1996? Where did the investment for the London flats come from? How did the Sharif family children maintain residence at the property? In the proceedings today, Salman Akram Raja tried to address them.
He argued that in 1999 when the Sharif family was in exile it faced trauma and lost several official records. “It is not possible to present 45-year-old records,” he said.
He said that there was no charge against the Prime Minister and action against his children was not possible. He added that the issue could be sent to agencies for investigation.
“Let’s call a spade a spade and show us relevant documents that could reveal who gave payment to service providing company (Minerva),” Justice Azmat asked.
Meanwhile, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is heading a five-judge larger bench of the apex court in the Panamagate case, in his remarks said, “This is the stage which will make or break the Panamagate case.”
Justice Khosa expressed wonder that four apartments in London’s upscale area were acquired for two students (Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz) in 1990s.
Another judge Justice Ijazul Ahsen remarked that no document had been produced regarding the generation of money by Qatar investment as well as getting the ownership of London flats. Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked Raja to tell the top court how the London flats were purchased by the Sharif family.
Answering questions over money trail for the London flats,Salman Akram Raja argued that his client Hussain Nawaz had purchased them through money obtained from his grandfather’s business. Salman Akram Raja added that the plaintiff had accused the Prime Minister of acquiring the flat through illegal money.
He said that the Sharif family did not own the London flats in 1999. Between 1993 and 1996 they were owned by the Al-Thani family, and in January 2006 they were transferred to Hussain Nawaz. In July the certificates were transferred to the Minerva firm.
The record for the Sharif family’s business dealings for the last 40 to 45 years cannot be reproduced, the counsel said, as “it was lost during the 1999 martial law.”
Referring to an investigation report by former interior minister Rehman Malik over the flats, he said, that it was conducted in his personal capacity while he had been suspended from his office. “Rehman Malik had sent a copy of the report to the President and revealed it to media. But the report has no legal standing,” he said, adding that it had earlier been rejected by the Lahore High Court.
The counsel also argued that the court cannot reach a just conclusion in the case without first conducting a judicial inquiry.
The matter can be sent to relevant departments for inquiry as the Arsalan Iftikhar case determined that trials for cases can be held at corresponding forums, Salman Akram Raja told the court.
“A court has never conducted an independent inquiry in any criminal case,” Raja argued, adding that Article 10 of the Constitution says that every citizen of this country deserves a fair trial and that departments formed under the law should be allowed to do their job.
“There is no charge against the Prime Minister, so there is no charge against his children either,” he continued.
“If we suppose that the PM’s children are his employees, according to the National Accountability Bureau’s laws, then the burden of proof does not fall on the defendants,” Raja argued in court.
“This is not a criminal court, so even if Hassan and Hussain Nawaz are suspects, there is no proof against them,” he added.
There were eight questions that the court posed to the defendants, including the relationship between Mian Mohammad Sharif and the Al Sani family, the shares in Nielsen and Nescoll, and the profits the family gained from them, the counsel recalled.
“There were questions about the trust deed as well, and in this hearing, I will answer all these questions,” he told the court.
Justice Khosa advised Raja that he should first finish his arguments before answering the court’s questions.
“The Sharif family did not own the flats in 1999, as Hussain Nawaz was given the bearer certificate to the flats by the Al Thani family,” Raja argued. He added that the shares for the flats were given to Minerva Financial Services in 2006.
Upon hearing this argument, Justice Azmat Saeed asked the counsel to provide a paper trail for these transactions, and said, “You have been moving from one point to the other since the beginning, but have failed to provide any evidence in this regard.”
The hearing has been adjourned till February 16 (Thursday).
Speaking outside the Supreme Court, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan said that the Sharif family did not have documents to prove money trail for the London flats.
He said attempts were being made to save the Prime Minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz along with the Prime Minister.—INP

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