In a setback to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a Supreme Court ordered probe panel in its final report on the Panamagate today recommended filing of a corruption case against him and his children after finding “significant” disparities in their income and actual wealth. The six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Sharif family’s business dealings in its report submitted to the apex court recommended that a corruption case should be filed against Sharif and his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, as well as daughter Maryam Nawaz, under the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance 1999.
The report, however, was slammed by the Nawaz Sharif government as “trash” with Sharif’s close aide and minister for development Ahsan Iqbal in press conference with other ministers, saying they will challenge the report in the Supreme Court and will “completely expose and unveil its contradictions and falsifications”. Sharif’s daughter Maryam also rejected the report, saying, “JIT report REJECTED. Every contradiction will not only be contested but decimated in SC. NOT a penny of public exchequer involved.”
The JIT report said the assets of all four respondents were found to be more than the sources of their income. “Significant gap/disparity amongst the known and declared sources of income and the wealth accumulated by the Respondent No. 1, 6, 7 and 8 have been observed,” the JIT observed in its concluding remarks. Respondent 1 refers to Prime Minister Sharif; Respondent 6 was Maryam; Respondent 7 Hussain; while Respondent 8 was Hassan. The report said the financial structure and health of companies in Pakistan having linkages to the Sharif family also do no substantiate their wealth. It also highlighted “irregular movement” of huge sums of money in the form “loans and gifts” between Sharif and his youngest son from various companies set up in Saudi Arabia, the UK and the UAE. The report said the role of off-shore companies is critical as they have been identified to be linked with their businesses in UK.
The JIT also said that the Sharifs were unable to provide substantive evidence of a reliable money trail, used to buy expensive properties in London. Sharif, 67, who has denied money-laundering allegations against him and his family, today held consultations with his close aides after the report was filed with the court. Sharif’s close aide and minister for development Iqbal later said, “If you review this report, it has no logical argument neither it quoted authentic sources nor material, but is based on things that have no authenticity before the law. Therefore, we are rejecting this report, terming it rubbish.” Iqbal, while announcing that his party will challenge the report before the apex court, said, “We not only condemn this report but will completely expose and unveil its contradictions and falsification before the Supreme Court. We will demolish this report.” Iqbal said the report was based on accusations leveled by Imran and his party and there was nothing new in it. Zafarullah Khan, another close aide of Sharif, said, “It is a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf report and not JIT report…It is Imran Nama.” He said that the Supreme Court bench will consign the report to a “trash bin, where it rightfully belongs”.
Earlier, JIT chief Wajid Zia presented the 10-volume report along with evidence to the three-member special bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan. The court ordered that its copies should be provided to the parties in the case, including Sharif family. However, JIT chief Zia asked the court that its 10th volume of the report should not be made public as it consists of correspondence with a foreign government. The bench has adjourned the hearing till Monday.
The six-member JIT was set up in May by the Supreme Court with the mandate to probe the Sharif family for allegedly failing to provide the trail of money used to buy properties in London in 1990s. The JIT has also probed several serving and former officials in connection with the case. The six-member JIT included Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia, Military Intelligence’s Brig Kamran Khurshid, National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Director Irfan Naeem Mangi, State Bank of Pakistan’s Amer Aziz, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) Executive Director Bilal Rasool and Inter-Services Intelligence’s Brig Muhammad Nauman Saeed. Last year, the Panama Papers revealed that three of Prime Minister Sharif’s children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family’s wealth statement.
The assets in question include four expensive flats in Park Lane, London. The top court took up the case in October last year on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami and reserved the verdict in February after conducting hearings on a daily basis. The JIT questioned Sharif family including the Prime Minister, his younger brother and Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, sons Hassan and Hussain, daughter Maryam, son-in-law Captain Safdar, cousin Tariq Shafi and close relative Ishaq Dar. It also probed several serving and former officials. Meanwhile, Sharif’s rival Imran told the media that the PML-N chief should resign as prime minister. “There is no need of further trial or proceedings. He should go away and should be barred from leaving the country along with other family members,” he said.