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Nawaz Sharif non-committal about Qatri letters

13 July, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: In its damning report on the Sharif family’s alleged money laundering, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has noted that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was non-committal about the two letters furnished before the Supreme Court by former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani to establish the much-needed money trail for the London properties.

In the chapter relating to the prime minister’s appearance before the six-man JIT, headed by Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Wajid Zia, at the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) on June 15, the report said PM Sharif initially denied having read the letters, but later stated that he might have seen them.

The prime minister then endorsed the content of both letters before the JIT without being sure of their content, the report said, observing that this diluted the credibility of the Qatari letters as evidence.

The prime minister could also not explain the timeframe and procedure adopted by his sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz in obtaining possession of the four London apartments, and was even uncertain of the actual ownership of the flats, the JIT said.

Although PM Sharif confirmed that he knew of the investment made by his father Mian Mohammad Sharif with the royal family of Qatar, he hardly seemed to remember any details.

He had not even seen the worksheet of the sale proceeds of the Gulf Steel Mills in the UAE, which were submitted by his sons to the apex court.

But at the end, he said he stood by all the submissions made by his children before the court, the report said.

The report also confirmed that PM Sharif served as the chairman of the board of Capital FZE, a Dubai-based company.

Although no evidence of this was provided by the Sharifs, the JIT said it had collected evidence directly from the Jebal Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza), the concerned regulator, which confirmed that Nawaz Sharif not only served as head of the company’s board, but also drew a salary of 10,000 dirhams between Aug 7, 2006 and April 20, 2014 — nearly a year after assuming office.

Similarly, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in his interrogation on June 17, appeared confident but evasive on different counts, especially the Gulf Steel and Hudabiya Mills cases, the Avenfield apartments and the assets settlement amongst the family.

The chief minister tried to gave the impression that he had no link with the Panama Papers case, hence his appearance was pointless.

But in its conclusion, the JIT held that though Shahbaz Sharif was not a respondent in the case, he was connected to Panamagate and his role in the Gulf Steel, Hudabiya Mills and Al-Towfeek cases made him an important witness.

The younger Sharif’s knowledge of the investment with the Qatari royal family is based on “hearsay” as he did not verify how, when and how much money was transferred from the sale proceeds of Gulf Steel to the Al-Thanis in 1980.

His refusal to answer questions about the Al-Towfeek and Hudabiya Mills cases validated the team’s findings about the illegal money circulation established in the Hudabiya case, the JIT reported.

While Shahbaz Sharif corroborated Hussain Nawaz’ stance on the settlement of sale proceeds from Azizia Steel Mills, Jeddah, this was inconsistent with the stated position of the prime minister.

The younger Sharif, however, stated that the Gulf Steel was established by his father and that his cousin Tariq Shafi was the owner and beneficiary of Gulf Steel, therefore he was responsible for its liabilities as well.

This statement was explicitly inconsistent with the statements of Tariq Shafi, the prime minister and Hussain Nawaz filed before the court and recorded before the JIT, who had stated that Mian Sharif and the family were its beneficiaries.

The chief minister explained that he did not play any role in the functioning of Gulf Steel and only assisted Tariq Shafi on the directions of Mian Sharif with reference to the preparation of a share sale agreement in 1980.

This contradicted the statement of Mr Shafi, who had told the JIT that Shahbaz Sharif used to visit Dubai and oversee the financial affairs of the mill, especially between 1978 and 1980, when Mian Sharif had returned to Pakistan, the JIT said.

He was non-commital and looked concerned when asked about any decree from Dubai courts, and said there was no decree with reference to a default on the payments for Gulf Steel or a BCCI loan against him in Dubai or Pakistan.

Talking about Mariam Safdar — the married name of Maryam Nawaz Sharif — the JIT said she submitted two trust deeds, purported to be original documents. However, it was later established by the JIT that these documents were not originals, and were, in fact, falsified in an attempt to mislead the JIT and the Supreme Court.

Ms Sharif had claimed to be trustee of Coomber Inc. but failed to give any satisfactory details about this company, the JIT said.

She was also evasive about the London properties and shifted the responsibility on her brother Hussain, stating that she acted on his advice. She claimed that she had never seen or possessed the bearer certificates of the two offshore companies; Nielson Enterprises and Nescoll Ltd.

Even though she also asserted that she was not the beneficial owner of the two offshore companies, the documentary evidence provided by the Attorney General’s Chambers and Financial Investigation Authority of the British Virgin Islands had proved otherwise.

The JIT also accused Ms Sharif of being evasive and giving inconclusive replies to pertinent questions on the topic of gifts exchanged between her and her father. Similarly, she displayed ignorance regarding her transactions related to Chaudhry Sugar Mills and failed to provide any documentary evidence in support of her contentions.

Referring to her spouse, retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, the JIT described him as absolutely evasive, non-committal and speculative while recording his statement. “He was untruthful, dishonest, deceitful and shifty on many accounts, displaying wanting conduct,” investigators observed, adding that Capt Safdar did not bring along any document or record to substantiate his statement.

His inability to recall the contents of a claimed “trust deed” between his wife and Hussain Nawaz indicated that he had either signed the document without reading it, or someone else had signed it in his place.

His inability to recognise the trust deed raised serious questions about its authenticity, the JIT said. He also failed to justify the increase in his assets from Rs12 million to Rs25 million and despite assurances to the JIT, did not explain the sources of income to date, the JIT said.
‘Unreliable’ Rehman Malik

The JIT didn’t spare former interior minister Rehman Malik either, describing him as “an unreliable and clever character who failed to contribute towards the investigation process”.

But his report encompassing the money trail in the Hudabiya Mills case, commonly known as the Rehman Malik report, contains authentic record that is corroborated by banking records, the JIT said.

Senator Rehman Malik, meanwhile, regretted the JIT’s description of him, saying he never appeared before the JIT to secure a character certificate. He accused the team of being biased and getting personal, asking how they could describe him as ‘unreliable’.

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