Maryam Nawaz owned London flats for six months: Nawaz family lawyer
17 February, 2017
ISLAMABAD: The lawyer for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s sons claimed before the Supreme Court on Thursday that the bearer share certificates of the four London flats remained in the custody of Maryam Nawaz — the PM’s daughter — between February and July 2006.
Salman Akram Raja told the court that a trust deed was executed between Maryam and Hussain Nawaz in February 2006, following which she acted as a trustee for her brother.
Maryam’s propriety connection with the four flats ends after the cancellation of those bearer certificates and their registration in the name of Minerva Services Limited — an entity that provides directors to the two companies Nielson Enterprises Ltd and Nescoll Ltd, the offshore companies that owned the four flats.
This was the reason, the counsel argued, why Maryam Nawaz’ name was listed under beneficial owner in the records of Minerva Services.
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The counsel had earlier explained that bearer share certificates were like prize bonds or currency: whosoever possessed them owned the properties in question.
Another company, JPCA — a firm of chartered accountants — took over charge from Minerva in 2014.
When Justice Saeed asked the counsel for documents to show who the authorised representatives of Minerva Services were, Advocate Raja replied that Minerva Services was authorised by the trustee service company, which Hussain now owned.
Justice Ejaz Afzal said the court wanted to know whether Maryam owned the property title at some stage. “As a trustee only, but technically possessed with no legal title,” was the counsel’s reply.
The judge then observed that the court had come across yet another veil and asked, rhetorically, who would lift it.
The counsel, however, maintained that his chain of narration was complete, adding that if the petitioners had any doubts, they should come up with solid evidence to contradict it or establish any wrongdoing. He brushed aside the possibility that Maryam had acquired any expensive properties.
Citing a number of judgements such as the 2012 Asghar Khan and Memogate cases, the counsel argued that the Supreme Court should not consider appointing any commission to further probe allegations of any wrongdoing under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.
If any contention or narrative put forth by the Sharifs has to be disbelieved, where is the counter-evidence to prove any wrongdoing, particularly on part of the prime minister, the counsel asked.
Justice Afzal regretted that the narrative built by the counsel defied common sense; that a person holding expensive properties in London did not keep any documentary proof. He said the real question now was what the court should do in such a situation.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who heads the bench, observed that what the petitioner was asking for was a determination against the ruling family, adding that under the Constitution, nobody can bar the apex court from giving such a declaration.
The judge also said the court could hold that the explanation offered by the counsel about the ownership of the properties was not found to be honest.
During Thursday’s proceedings, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed regretted that Mian Sharif’s will, which reportedly contained instructions regarding transfer of ownership of the properties to Hussain Nawaz, was still missing.
Wrapping up his arguments, the counsel maintained the court could not proceed on mere presumptions, especially when the prime minister cannot be acted against due to lack of evidence. He said that even if the court rejected his entire argument, it could not link the prime minister to the flats in question.
But Justice Khosa reminded the counsel that when Mian Sharif was no more, the children said they had no money and everything came from Qatar, whereas Kulsoom Nawaz was simply a housewife, the only person left to question was the prime minister.
He also observed that when the relevant authorities had failed to show backbone and were reluctant to play their investigative role, then someone — meaning the court — had to supply strength.
The five-judge bench hearing the Panamagate case called on chairmen of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to ensure their presence in court on Tuesday (Feb 21) to explain what measures had been taken in response to the Panama Papers controversy.
The bench has specifically asked NAB chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry to provide details about the 1999 Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference, which was quashed by the Lahore High Court in 2014.
The reference was initiated on April 25, 2000, based on a confessional statement of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, where he had admitted his role in alleged laundering of $14.86 million on behalf of the Sharifs. However, the witness was pardoned by the incumbent NAB chairman.
High court referee judge Justice Sardar Shamim had quashed the reference on March 11, 2014 on the grounds that if a re-investigation was allowed against the Sharif family, it would provide an opportunity to investigators to pad up lacunas. Later, NAB decided not to challenge the high court’s decision.
Advocate Naeem Bokhari, who represents Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, had sought directions against NAB to file a belated appeal before the Supreme Court to re-open the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference.
In its reply, NAB had pleaded that it was beyond its scope to probe the Panama Paper leaks and any action under the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 without evidence about the commission of an offence would be premature.
On Thursday, Justice Khosa concluded proceedings with the announcement that the court would hold the next hearing on Feb 21, adding that the case had resumed with the understanding that Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, who was still recovering from a heart ailment, will be afforded ample opportunity to rest.