No evidence PM owns any property, observes bench

ISLAMABAD: The Panama case implementation bench observed on Wednesday that no direct evidence links the prime minister’s ownership with any of the properties in question.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the special three-member Supreme Court bench, said they have to see if there is anything in the records linking the premier to the case.

The bench also repeatedly inquired from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s counsel regarding the money trail of the London properties.

The premier’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, could not provide the bench with a satisfactory answer as he resumed his arguments from Tuesday.

The special implementation bench, headed by Justice Ejaz and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, began hearing the case around 9:30am.

Presenting his arguments, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s counsel Tariq Hassan informed the bench that the JIT unnecessarily dragged his client into the case.

The bench came down hard on Hassan, observing that his client refused to provide the JIT with the necessary documents to support his case.

It gave the counsel until Thursday to submit the relevant documents, observing that he has nothing to worry about if his client is not connected to Hill Metals Establishment.

As the hearing began, Harris argued before the bench that the prime minister was not asked about any of his assets. “If the JIT had something [related to his assets], they would have asked questions,” he said.

The prime minister’s counsel read out his statement given to the JIT.

Harris said the premier has no assets other than those he has declared.

Justice Ijaz remarked that the prime minister said he would provide a money trail of all the properties but he did not explain when he bought the properties and where he generated funds for their purchase.

Everything is clear except for the ownership of the London properties, observed the bench.

Harris said the prime minister is not the owner of the London flats.

The premier’s counsel further claimed that the JIT report does not term the prime minister a benamidar [owning property in someone else’s name], adding that the JIT has stated that the flats are the entire Sharif family’s.

Justice Ijaz remarked that the question as to how the funds reached London from Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia has still not been answered.

He commented further that if the main question [of the money trail] is answered, the matter will be settled.

Harris claimed that the premier’s late father, Mian Sharif, used to handle the family’s business affairs.

Justice Ijaz remarked that the prime minister knew what he was saying in the National Assembly when he claimed he would provide the money trail of the London flats.

“The tragedy is that there are no documents to prove who the real owner of the London properties is,” remarked Justice Azmat.

Before concluding his arguments, Harris requested the bench to note that Nawaz Sharif, during his entire term in public office in the last four decades, has not been accused of any corruption or financial misappropriation.

Later, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s counsel Dr Tariq Hassan began his arguments before the bench but the court went into recess shortly after.

Upon resuming the hearing, the bench directed the counsel for the premier’s children, Salman Akram Raja, to present his arguments saying they want to hear him first.

Raja informed the court that some new records have been obtained, which will be submitted to the court in a day or two.

As a result, Hassan began presenting his arguments. Justice Ejaz hoped the counsel will not take up much time today.

In response to a question from the bench, Hassan claimed Imran Khan’s petition did not directly accuse Ishaq Dar of anything.

He also said the JIT had wrongly accused the finance minister of not submitting his tax returns of 2001-02, adding that these findings could lead to a trial against his client.

In response, Justice Ijaz remarked that the counsel will be given a complete chance to defend his client if the matter goes to trial.

Referring to the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, Justice Azmat observed that Dar was a suspect and gave a ‘confessional’ statement.

Hassan responded saying the statement, taken under duress, was later retracted by Dar and thus the matter stands closed and cannot be reopened. “Furthermore, I am not prepared to argue this particular case today,” Hassan stated.

When Dar’s counsel said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has closed the case file, Justice Ejaz remarked that didn’t the court direct the NAB chairman to reopen the case. Justice Azmat added that should the bench close its eyes to everything.

Responding to Hassan’s assertion that his client is not related to the case in any way, Justice Ijaz remarked that the company of Dar’s son, Ali, received funds from Hill Metals Establishment. “We have told you the entire connection now,” the judge remarked.

Justice Azmat directed the counsel to provide additional documents, saying “You will be given a complete chance to defend your case”.

“Had the JIT examined my documents they would have realised my client’s assets actually decreased over the years,” commented Hassan.

Justice Ijaz responded saying the JIT asked your client regarding his businesses and earnings but he refused to answer citing privilege. “You opted not to share documents. How can you say you revealed the facts then,” the judge remarked, observing further that this approach was adopted by everyone in the case not just Dar.

“Your assets jumped from Rs9 million in 1993 to Rs854 million in 2000,” the judge commented further.

Justice Azmat said the bench could have made its decision without taking into account the counsel’s objections.

“Answer the allegations against you in a trial court,” observed Justice Ijaz.

When asked, Hassan said the NAB, Federal Board of Revenue and Election Commission of Pakistan have not found any discrepancy in Dar’s records.

Hassan said the JIT’s conduct with his client was inappropriate. “Why did the JIT level accusations against my client?” asked Hassan.

Addressing the counsel, Justice Ejaz remarked that “if you are not connected to the Hill Metals Establishment you have nothing to worry about”.

The bench then directed Hassan to submit the relevant documents in court tomorrow and adjourned the hearing till Thursday.

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