ISLAMABAD: Refusing to answer any questions regarding the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, one of the key pieces of evidence against the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has appeared to be the new strategy of the ruling family while facing the joint investigation team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court to probe the Panama Papers scandal.
Another part of the strategy is to take on the JIT, investigating into the property owned by the Sharif family in London, aggressively and even respond to its questions with aggression.
Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s language and tone in the media talk after his appearance before the JIT on Monday was a clear indication that he was carrying that pumped up attitude from his presence inside the investigation room.
Sources close to the development and advising the Sharif family on the case have revealed that the strategy flows from the fact that they want to limit the JIT to investigating the source of income for acquiring London flats that are owned by companies registered in Panama. The beneficiary directors of the companies are PM’s sons: Hassan Nawaz and Husain Nawaz and his daughter Maryam Nawaz is the trustee of the companies.
PM’s political secretary Asif Kirmani betrayed this strategy as in his media talks he addressed the JIT and asked it to refrain from the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case and focus on Qatar as the money trail is through the oil and gas-rich kingdom.
The legal advice given to the witnesses being called by the probing bench is that the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case was closed by the high court in 2014 therefore it cannot be questioned and investigation into it cannot be reopened.
In the meanwhile, in the absence of any documentary evidence by Qatari Prince Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani, the JIT refuses to believe that the money invested in the UK is any way linked to some ‘claimed’ investment with the Qatari royal family. The JIT is also in no mood to visit Qatar and present itself before Prince Hamad in his own office as some media reports suggest that he has offered.
The JIT is taking its strength from the verdict of the Supreme Court bench that had established the JIT. The verdict was very specific in exploring all possible sources of the finances that were used to acquire the London properties.
The apex court’s verdict read: “The JIT may also examine the evidence and material, if any, already available with the FIA and NAB relating to or having any nexus with the possession or acquisition of the aforesaid flats or any other assets or pecuniary resources and their origin.”
This clearly shows that the JIT can access and probe any materials that could help address different questions raised by the SC in its verdict of April 20, 2017.
As a reminder it will be important to read through the verdict and see what questions the JIT has to answer in its investigation.
The verdict said: “We hold that the questions how did Gulf Steel Mill come into being; what led to its sale; what happened to its liabilities; where did its sale proceeds end up; how did they reach Jeddah, Qatar and the UK; whether respondents No 7 and 8 in view of their tender ages had the means in the early 90s to possess and purchase the flats; whether sudden appearance of the letters of Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani is a myth or a reality; how bearer shares crystallised into the flats; who, in fact, is the real and beneficial owner of M/s Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited; how did Hill Metal Establishment come into existence; where did the money for Flagship Investment Limited and other companies set up/taken over by respondent No8 come from, and where did the Working Capital for such companies come from and where do the huge sums running into millions gifted by respondent No7 to respondent No1 drop in from, which go to the heart of the matter and need to be answered. Therefore, a thorough investigation in this behalf is required.”
The verdict also read: “The JIT shall investigate the case and collect evidence, if any, showing that respondent No1 or any of his dependents or benamidars owns, possesses or has acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to his known means of income.”
Thus the investigation in the SC’s eyes was never limited to London flats.
A fresh wave of attacks on the JIT has also been spurred by a fresh assessment that the JIT’s progress and questioning was leading towards a scenario where the political career of the Sharif family could be jeopardised. This strategy started unfolding before Eid holidays and after that it has become a full-fledged media attack on the JIT.
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