Sharif family’s money gifts under scrutiny in SC
The Panamagate case was catapulted to a new phase on Wednesday when the top court asked about the sources of wealth of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, as well as the rotation of money from one member to another.
Counsel for the PM Makhdoom Ali Khan issued a rejoinder to the PTI allegation regarding the Rs520 million gift that PM Nawaz Sharif had received from his son, Hussain Nawaz, between 2011 and 2014, the Supreme Court’s five-judge bench asked about the ‘source of that huge amount’.
The bench — headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa — also questioned discrepancy in the sale deed of 85 kanals of land that the PM’s daughter Maryam Nawaz purchased in Lahore in 2011.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said there was an impression that the money had been rotated in the family from one member to another. “The court would like to know how the money was generated and how it was transferred. We want to know the source of income. You (PM) being father should have asked your son (Hussain) how he had generated the money,” Justice Ahsan observed.
He also expressed wonder at how the PM had received such a huge amount as gift from his son and why he needed such gift. “Was it an exercise to whiten the money?” he asked. He said the court wanted to see the PM’s banking record wherein he received this money from his son.
Justice Ahsan observed that Hussain presented Rs129,836,905 to the PM in 2011, Rs26,600,800 in 2012, Rs190,445,024 in 2013 and Rs197,499,000 in 2014.
“Totally, he (PM) got 52 crore rupees as a gift from his son in four years,” he noted.
Another judge, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, observed that on the 11th hearing of the Panagamate case, the SC had come to ‘the real matter’. He said the Sharif family did not provide a single scrap of paper to show how the funds were generated and how they came to Pakistan.
“This is a question whose answer we are looking for. The people want to know the truth. We cannot close our eyes in the prevailing situation,” he added. Justice Sheikh also asked how the PM’s son had earned the money if it was not generated through two offshore companies.
“Someone will have to provide a satisfactory answer to these queries,” he said, adding that there were hundreds of questions about money trail but no answer had so far been provided.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. You [the PM’s counsel] have placed nothing on record. Both you [respondents] as well as other parties don’t want to tell the truth,” he added.
Justice Sheikh said the petitioner [the PTI] had ‘gambled’ by saying that they do not want to further probe the Panamagate issue through a Judicial Commission and that the SC should decide the case on available documents, which, he said, might not be possible.
Justice Khosa observed that there are two aspects of the case: “The first is tax evasion and the second is money laundering.” He said it has been observed that people illegally send black money abroad and later the same is remitted in the country.
“Now, the premier’s son has to provide details as to how the money was generated, which he remitted to his father as a gift,” he added.
During the hearing, the judge also referred to former interior minister Rehman Malik’s investigation report on Sharif family’s alleged money-laundering in the 90s and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s confessional statement with regard to it. Malik had also revealed different means of money-laundering
Justice Khosa observed that the report could not meet its logical conclusion as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) did not file an appeal against the Lahore High Court’s order to quash the reference against the Sharif family on technical grounds in 2014.
He said the SC cannot reinvestigate the matter under Article 184-3 of the Constitution. However, another judge remarked that if they accepted the PTI’s prayer to ask NAB chairman to file an appeal then the PM could be one of the accused.
Justice Khosa also expressed wonder at the PM’s son’s gifts, a portion of which was also transferred to Maryam Nawaz who purchased a property from its and later returned the money to her father. “We have to see the chain of money but there is nothing on record,” he added.
Commenting on Rs520 million gifts, Justice Khosa observed that son usually gives wrest watch to his father “but perhaps rich people also give big gifts”.
He said the PM did not reveal in any of his speeches that the London flats were owned by Hussain Nawaz. Likewise, Hussain in his interview did not say that the flats belonged to him.
Justice Khosa asked the PM’s counsel to satisfy the bench regarding the PM’s speeches today (Thursday), pointingz that the PM’s family had taken three stances about ownership of foreign properties.
However, Makhdoom Ali Khan contended that the gift was received through banking channel and the source of funds was genuine. He said Maryam was never a dependent of her father. The PM’s counsel also claimed that Sharif had never contradicted his son’s claim about the London properties.
Meanwhile, the bench also raised serious question about the authenticity of the sale deed of 85 kanal land, purchased by Maryam Nawaz in 2011. It observed that the stamp paper was purchased in March 2011 and sale deed was finalised in February.
Later, the PTI’s spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry requested the bench to direct the LHC registrar regarding freezing of revenue records and all records in their (respondents’) custody as the government, he alleged, might tamper it.
However, Justice Khosa told him not to worry, adding that they knew how to deal in prevailing circumstances. Talking to The Express Tribune, Fawad later said if discrepancy pointed out by the judges was proven then the Sharif family might face penal consequences to mislead the court.
The bench, later, asked the PM’s counsel to provide today (Thursday) a chart showing detail with date about gifts and sale and purchase of properties by Sharif family. Earlier, the court also issued notice to the PM and other respondents over a fresh petition by the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2017.