Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s media savvy daughter Maryam Sharif’s name has been virtually cleared by the Supreme Court in the high-profile Panama case, according to a media report. The Panama Papers leaks alleged that 43-year-old Maryam was the beneficial owner of the London properties owned jointly by her brothers. The petitions claimed that since Maryam was a dependant of Sharif, she should have declared the Mayfair properties in her wealth statement. The verdict, however, was of the view that Maryam “has received cash gifts from her father in substantial amounts on various occasions… receipt of gifts from the father does not necessarily make Respondent No 6 (Maryam Nawaz) his (Nawaz Sharif) dependent in the legal sense of the word”, Dawn reported.
The bench said in the verdict that “we also notice that she owns substantial agricultural property, receives income from the same, holds shares in limited companies worth more than Rs 200 million and her husband also receives a fair amount of money by way of pension as a retired military officer”. In response to the arguments that Maryam lives in the Sharif’s family house, the verdict said: “The mere fact that she has chosen to live in a compound owned by her grandmother does not ipso facto make her a dependent of Respondent No 1 (Nawaz Sharif) either”. The verdict further noted that Maryam “contributes a substantial sum of money towards her share in the joint expenses incurred by her grandmother on behalf of other members of the Sharif family residing in the compound”.
Subsequently, the bench declared, “in this context, whether or not Respondent No 6 is the beneficial owner of the Mayfair Properties becomes irrelevant at this stage, seen from the point of view of seeking disqualification of Respondent No 1 on the ground that he has failed to disclose the assets of a dependent”. Even otherwise, the issue of dependency is a question of fact to be determined on a case-to-case basis after recording evidence. The bench concluded that in these proceedings sufficient material was not available on the record to establish that Maryam Nawaz was a dependant of Nawaz Sharif, in a legal sense. “We do not feel the necessity to discuss this aspect of the case any further, lest it should prejudice the case of either party before a competent forum if and when this issue is agitated,” it said.
In the operating part of the judgement, the bench constituted a joint investigation team comprising representatives of the Federal Investigation Agency, National Accountability Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, State Bank of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence. The court asked the proposed JIT to investigate allegations levelled against Sharif and his sons Hassan and Hussain by the petitioners. A senior lawyer and former deputy attorney general Tariq Jahangiri says that Maryam has been cleared for the time being, but in case the JIT finds some tangible evidence against her she may face the proceedings as well.