Pakistan’s apex court concludes hearings in Panamagate case; judgement reserved

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Staff Report

Islamabad – The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Friday concluded the hearings in the Panamagate case and reserved its judgement. But the date for the judgement has yet to be announced.
On the last day of hearing, the Apex court also opened Volume X of the joint investigation team’s (JIT) report, which was earlier marked “confidential”, providing a copy of the same to Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Harris.
The Panamagate case was heard by a three-member bench of the SC, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
The JIT, tasked with investigating allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family, submitted its report to the Court on July 10. Volume X of the report, titled “Mutual Legal Assistance Requests ─ Ongoing”, is related to JIT’s international correspondence and the documents obtained from foreign countries during the investigation.
In their objections to the JIT report, filed before the SC earlier this week, the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had called the investigators’ request to withhold Volume X “mala fide”. During Monday’s proceedings, the judges had also expressed an inclination to make Volume X public.
“The volume contains details of the JIT’s correspondence and will help clear a number of things,” Justice Azmat Saeed told Harris, adding that the chapter was being opened on the lawyer’s request.
Continuing his arguments before the court, Salman Akram Raja, the lawyer representing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children, sought to appease the judges’ objections to the documents that he had submitted a day earlier.
The bench had questioned the authenticity of the documents submitted by the lawyer on behalf of his clients, pointing out that the trust deed ─ executed between Maryam Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz in February 2006 ─ was signed on Saturday in a country where it was not possible to seek official appointments on a holiday.
“Plenty of barristers and solicitors work on Saturdays ─ even Sundays ─ in London,” the lawyer told the court. Justice Ijazul Ahsan replied that, on the contrary, Hussain Nawaz had said that making such appointments on Saturdays was not possible.
The counsel reiterated before the bench that Maryam Nawaz, the PM’s daughter, was not the owner of the Avenfield flats in London. “The [JIT’s] report shows that Maryam Nawaz is the beneficial owner of the flats,” noted Justice Ejaz Afzal, adding that her ownership of the off-shore companies was not included in the tax returns of her husband, Captain Safdar.
“If the court concludes that the ownership is not included in the [tax] returns, then the Representation of the People’s Act 1976 will be applicable,” said Justice Ejaz Afzal.
Raja admitted that there were “clerical errors” in the 2006 trust deed, saying that the mistakes were made during the initial proceedings of the Panamagate case when Advocate Akram Sheikh was representing the PM.
Raja said that Hussain Nawaz had received all the capital from his grandfather Mian Mohammad Nawaz. “Parents cannot bear the responsibility if the son cannot present evidence of his assets,” he said.
Justice Ejaz Afzal remarked that the PM was answerable before the courts as he holds a public office.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan noted that during an address to the nation last year, the PM had said that all the records of the children’s business activities were available. “Some suspicious documents were then submitted to the speaker of the National Assembly. We have been waiting for these documents for a year now,” he said.
Justice Azmat Saeed asked the lawyer if the case should be sent to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). “The case requires further investigations,” said Raja as he concluded his arguments.
“Your stance is that neither the JIT nor the courts can reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference. The allegations leveled against your client are that his assets suddenly increased,” Justice Ejaz Afzal remarked as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s lawyer, Tariq Hassan, began his arguments. “Your client is the key witness in the Hudaibiya case.”
The lawyer representing NAB told the SC that the bureau has decided to reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference of 2000, saying he would file an appeal before the apex court within a week, challenging the decision of the Lahore High Court to close the case.
During the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference, Dar had submitted a confessional statement regarding money laundering before a magistrate on April 25, 2000, on the basis of which he was pardoned in the case.
However, during the Panamagate hearings, Dar and his lawyers repeatedly disowned the confessional statements. Earlier in the week, the SC had reminded Dar’s lawyer that if the confessional statement in the Hudaibiya case was considered withdrawn, his status as co-accused would be restored and the pardon granted to him would be considered withdrawn.