Panama Papers: parties asked to substantiate claims without further ado

Granting last chance to all parties in Panama Leaks case to produce documents in support of their claims, Supreme Court on Monday ruled that it will take decision in appointing commission after examining all documents on November 15.

A five-member larger bench led by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali resumed the hearing of four pleas including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), seeking Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif and family members’ disqualification for their alleged involvement in Panama Papers’ controversy.

In its order, the bench said, “We deem appropriate to direct all the parties to these proceedings to place on record all the documents on which they intend to rely in support of their respective cases – No further opportunity in this regard will be available to them during the proceedings before the Commission – It is all the more necessary for the reason that this Court may also be able to go through these documents before deciding the question of appointment of Commission or otherwise”.

At the onset of the hearing, Salman Aslam Butt, the counsel for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, sons, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, submitted a concise statement before the bench in the matter.

Butt said that Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz are adult independent individuals and Maryam Nawaz is a regular taxpayer and duly files her tax retunes with the tax department wherein all her income, assets and liabilities have been duly disclosed.

He apprised the court that his clients Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz are non-residents who are settled and running their lawful business outside Pakistan for almost sixteen years and twenty years, respectively.

Butt is representing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif children, Maryam, Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz, son-in-law Captain Muhammad Safdar (Retd) and Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the matter before the larger bench.

He further said that Nawaz Sharif has no connection with or role in the business and properties of his children, saying Maryam, Hussain and Hassan have never held any public office in the country.

He informed the bench that factual controversy raised before the apex court in the matter about properties including Flats numbers 16, 16A, 17 and 17A situated at Avenfiled House, Park Lane, London, the UK, saying the properties are owned by two companies, namely Nescoll Limited and Nielsen Enterprises Limited (the entities).

“For the purpose of clarification for Supreme Court, it is submitted that Flat No 16A does not physically exist as it was merged in Flat No 16,” Butt told the bench.

He said that Maryam is not a dependant on Nawaz Sharif, adding that any inference or allegation to the contrary contained in the matter is specifically denied being contrary to facts and law.

Butt further pointed out that Maryam Nawaz currently or in the past never been remained beneficial owner of any of the properties or the entities, saying she has never made any contribution or payment in relation to the consideration or expenses pertaining to the properties or the entities nor has she derived any benefit there from. “Entities are being managed under a Trust arrangement for the sole benefit of Hussain Nawaz,” Butt submitted.

He said that with respect to reference to the wealth statement of Nawaz Sharif for the tax year 2011 to infer that Maryam Nawaz was declared as dependant of Mian Nawaz Sharif, it is submitted that the same is misconceived both in facts and law.

He argued that certain immoveable property standing/held by Nawaz Sharif in Maryam’s name in the tax year 2011, were duly included and disclosed by Nawaz Sharif in his wealth statement for the tax year 2011 at serial No 12 being the only appropriate place for such disclosure in accordance with law.

“Accordingly, the same were not included in her wealth statement for tax year 2011 by Maryam Nawaz during the tax year 2012, the consideration for the said immoveable property was duly paid by Maryam Nawaz to Mian Nawaz Sharif through a proper banking transaction.

Resultantly, the said immoveable property was duly included and declared by Maryam Nawaz in her wealth statement filed for the said tax year,” Salman Aslam Butt said.

Denying the allegations leveled against them in the matter, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz said they are not dependant of the Prime Minister saying as they are non-resident Pakistanis and conducting business outside the country over the last 16 years.

Butt said while submitting a concise statement on behalf of Hussain Nawaz that before January 2006, none of the entities of properties was owned by his client or by any of his family members.

Butt further said, “Source of funds resulting in vesting of beneficial ownership of the entities and, consequently, the properties of Hussain in January, 2006, was the investment made by the late Mian Muhammad Sharif, in the year 1980, from the sale proceeds of his steel business in Dubai – No part of the funds resulting in vesting of beneficial ownership of the entities in favour of Hussain Nawaz were generated or transferred/transmitted from Pakistan”.

Asad Manzoor Butt, the counsel for the Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq also appeared before the bench and urged the court to issue directives to the concerned authorities to initiate investigation against all those involved in corruption either working with government or part of the opposition parties.

A member of the bench, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, in a lighter mood, observed: “In this, there will be no one in the parliament”.

Sheikh Rashid, the head of the Awami Muslim League, who is also one of the petitioners, raised a number of questions before the court and said, “Why Nawaz Sharif is habitual to hide money and what was the motive and sources that he gave Rs 24.58 million to Maryam Nawaz”.

To which, Chief Justice Jamali, observed, “We are contemplating upon appointing a commission to submit a report in a reasonable time – we have given top priority to this case looking at its fallout. There is unrest in the country over the issue”. The court adjourned the hearing till November 15. -Business Recorder