Panama Papers probe: Nawaz Sharif's family fends off corruption charges; story so far

Days after a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Panama Papers graft case against Nawaz Sharif and his family submitted its final report to the Pakistan Supreme Court, the prime minister finds himself in a soup as several members of his family have been accused in the case.

The JIT on Monday accused Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz, her brothers Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, as well as her husband Captain Mohammad Safdar, of presenting fake documents to the probe team, which it said was a criminal offence. The investigating team said that the documents were forged in an attempt to mislead the Supreme Court.

Maryam is also accused of accumulating "assets disproportionate and beyond means of known sources of income", Dawn reported on Tuesday, according to PTI.

File image of Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

File image of Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

The JIT's report said, "She (Maryam) had been receiving heavy gifts ranging from Rs 73.5 million to Rs 830.73 million within period of 2009-2016." It added that the "accumulation of Maryam's assets shows a drastic hike in the early 1990s with no declared source of income".

The six-member JIT in its report on Monday recommended that a reference (corruption case) should be filed against Sharif and his two sons, as well as daughter Maryam Nawaz, under Section 9 of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance 1999, Livemint reported.

The JIT also accused Maryam of presenting fake documents on two 2006 declarations to the probe team using the "Calibri" font, which was not commercially available until 30 January, 2007, leading to reactions on social media platforms.

Sharif, who has denied the money-laundering allegations against him and his family, held consultation with his close aides on Monday after the report was filed with the court, the Livemint report said.

Sharif has been denying wrongdoing in the case since it first came to light. In November 2016, his family told the Supreme Court that their London property was bought through investments in companies owned by the Qatari ruling family.

The prime minister has since called the leaks the work of people "targeting me and my family for their political aims". In an address to the nation on 5 April, 2016, he said those "who use ill-gotten wealth don't keep assets in their own names".

After the JIT report was submitted on Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the opening of a criminal case against the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) chairman, according to Hindustan Times. SECP chairman Zafar Hijazi had been accused by a federal investigation agency of tampering records to favour Sharif’s family.

The report added that the three-judge bench comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Ejaz Afzal bench also ordered a contempt of court notice to be issued to the Jang Group, a leading media house, for a story published in its The News daily that speculated on the findings of the JIT.

Meanwhile, Maryam Nawaz took to Twitter to reject the JIT report, saying all accusations will be contested in the court.

The JIT was set up on 5 May by the Supreme Court with the mandate to probe the Sharif family for allegedly failing to provide the trail of money used to buy properties in London in 1990s. It has also probed several former and serving officials in connection with the case.

In 2016, the Panama Papers revealed that three of the prime minister's children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family's wealth statement. The assets in question include four expensive flats in Park Lane, London.

The top court took up the case in October 2016 on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami and reserved the verdict in February after conducting hearings on a daily basis.

According to legal experts, these developments may not disturb Maryam's plan to enter politics, at least for the time being.

The Supreme Court has sought objections from all parties in the Panama Papers case within a week and the next hearing of the case is scheduled for 17 July.

File image of Maryam Nawaz. AP

File image of Maryam Nawaz. AP

Raja Amir Abbas, former deputy prosecutor general with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), said Maryam can contest the elections till the charges against her are proven.

Former Supreme Court bar association president Syed Ali Zafar, however, said that in case the court confirms the JIT's allegations regarding the submission of false documents, Maryam may be disqualified from contesting the elections.

The Panama Papers row broke in April 2016 and has since set off a tornado that has swept many countries across the globe, current and former heads of state, the rich and famous in films, sports and politics, their family and associates, besides criminals, in its wake.

On April 3, 2016, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) put out an investigated report that blew the lid off tax evasion and secret offshore dealings of the powerful, rich and famous in 21 offshore jurisdictions such as Nevada, Niue, Samoa, British Anguilla, Hong Kong, Tortola, Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands. The report provides data on some 2,14,000 companies.

Among global leaders, other than Sharif, Argentinian president Mauricio Macri, Iceland prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud were named in the row.

Many prominent Indians including Amitabh Bachchan, DLF owner Kushal Pal Singh and Gautam Adani’s elder brother Vinod Adani, among others, were named in news reports related to the scam.

With inputs from agencies


Published Date: Jul 12, 2017 01:22 pm | Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 02:43 pm

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