PanamaLeaks case: SC poses serious questions

Asks if court admits newspaper clippings as proof, what had appeared in print media against Imran should also be considered as evidence; tells PTI lawyer to explain how Jeddah mills was purchased and how money was sent abroad

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday asked serious questions from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) counsel, urging him to prove the Sharif family’s connection with the properties established before 2006, saying if it was proved, there would be a heavy burden on the Sharif family.

The apex court asked if the newspaper clippings be admitted as proof against Nawaz Sharif, then the court should also accept what had been published against Imran Khan in newspapers for the last 30 years.

The court also asked the PTI lawyer to prove how the Sharif family purchased mills in Jeddah and what the money trail was.A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Amir Hani Muslim, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsen, resumed hearing in the petitions filed by Imran Khan, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and others, seeking a probe into the PanamaLeaks and disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Wednesday’s proceedings turned out to be very interesting after Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa repeatedly asked Naeem Bukhari to establish the connection of the Sharif family with the properties established before 2006 and if it was proved, a heavy onus would be on the Sharif family.

“You have to show us the connection of Sharif family with the properties before 2006 other than newspaper clippings,” Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa asked Naeem Bukhari.The direction of the court to Naeem Bukhari, who replaced Hamid Khan, was interesting as it would be seen whether Naeem Bukhari would be able on the next date of hearing to net Premier Nawaz Sharif after establishing his family connection with the properties.

The court also asked the PTI counsel not to rely on newspaper clippings and observed that a lot of things had also published in English newspapers against his client in the last 30 years.The court observed that the matter related to the inquiry wherein solid evidences were required.

While commencing his arguments, Naeem Bukhari in a lighter tone told Justice Azmat Saeed, “It seems like today you will get angry at me.”“Concentrate on your caseand do not flatter me,” Justice Sheikh Azmat replied to the learned counsel.

During the course of his arguments, Naeem Bukhari raised various questions relating to the letter recently sent from Qatar as well as the money trail through which the London flats owned by the prime minister’s children were bought.

“There was no detail on the record about the trail of money as the prime minister had no record pertaining to the trail of money regarding London, Dubai and Saudi Arabia as well,” Bukhari said.

He contended that after the statements given by the premier on the floor of parliament and later in his address to the nation, he no more remained Sadiq and Ameen, hence he should be disqualified.

The learned counsel contended that the prime minister was involved in tax evasion and lied in his address to the nation. He submitted that Maryam Nawaz was the beneficiary owner of the London flats, adding that the trust deed between Maryam and Hussain Nawaz did not prove much.

The court observed that there were discrepancies in the prime minister’s speech in the National Assembly and the documents submitted by his children in the court.Justice Ijazul Hassan observed that according to documents submitted by the prime minister’s children, they invested 12 million dirhams with the Qatari royal family.

Naeem Bukhari told the court that the Jeddah steel mills was bought in 2007, adding that the London flats were bought before buying this factory.Justice Azmat Saeed said that the documents submitted by the prime minister’s children only spoke about the Dubai steel mill but did not mention where investment for the Jeddah Steel Mill came from. He said the documents also did not mention that the investment was used to purchase the London flats.

Naeem Bukhari asked if it was mentioned that loan had been taken from banks for the Jeddah factory.“How did he get loan from the Saudi banks?” Justice Ijazul Hassan asked. “How much was the Jeddah factory sold for?”

Naeem Bukhari said the prime minister claimed that in June 2004 the factory was sold for $17 million. He added that the prime minister said that he had submitted all documents in the court.Justice Azmat Saeed said that the documents might be available everywhere but they had not been submitted in the court.

Bukhari said that the London flats were bought between 1993 and 1996.Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said that these were the sources of income through which the London flats were bought. He added that in two different documents submitted, there were no similarities between the signatures of Tariq Shafiq.

During the course of hearing, the learned counsel read out the letter sent from Qatar. When he said that a Qatari prince had sent a letter, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa in a lighter tone asked that the gentleman had not named himself as a prince, how he could say so.

Naeem Bukhari, also in lighter tone, replied that his name was Shehzada Naeem Bukhari although he was not a prince but looked like a prince.

The learned counsel, while reading out the letter, questioned as to who informed the prince that there was a business between his elder brother and the Sharif family, what the real estate business was and what type of business was in Qatar. There was an unspecified real estate business in Qatar, Bukhari said.

“It is absolutely vague to say that the London properties were purchased from the proceed of Qatar business,” Naeem Bukhari contended. He said that as there was a contradiction in the statements given by the prime minister on the floor of the house and address to the nation and the Qatari prince, Nawaz Sharif remained no more Sadiq and Ameen and he should be disqualified.

He further said if a huge investment was made in Qatar, why the prime minister forgot it in his statement over the floor of parliament and address to the nation as well.

When the learned counsel diverted the attention of the court to something published in English newspapers about the Sharif family, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh told the learned counsel as to why he was relying on the newspaper clippings, asking him as to whether he went through whatever had been published in the English newspapers regarding his client for the last 30 years.

“This is a matter of inquiry which needs solid evidence,” Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa remarked.During the course of hearing when Naeem Bukhari began to read out the names of offshore companies, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed asked the learned counsel about the Minerwa Holding Company, saying how the learned counsel could claim that this company was owned by the Sharif family.

He questioned as to why the ownership of these companies were not mentioned and why its documents were not shared with the court.

“You will have to show us if there were any such documents,” he asked. Akram Sheikh, counsel for Nawaz Sharif’s children, told the court that Minerwa Holding was a service providing company. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, however, asked Akram Sheikh to give an explanation in this regard.

Akram Sheikh further said that he also knew about another company namely the Niazi Services.Meanwhile, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali asked Naeem Bukhari as to how much time he would take to complete his arguments. Bukhari replied that he was going to argue tax evasion by the Sharif family and he would hardly get 35 minutes.The court, however, adjourned the hearing till December 6.