JIT drew its own conclusion from UAE letter: Sharif family lawyer pleads

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ISLAMABAD, July 20 (APP): Counsel for Sharif family Salman Akram
Raja in the Panama papers case on Thursday said that the Joint
Investigation Team (JIT) drew its own conclusion from the letter
sent by Ministry of Justice of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Appearing before the three-member special implementation
bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan
and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijaz Ul
Ahsan, the counsel for the prime minister’s scions said that the JIT
did not ask any question about the letter from Hussain Nawaz.
He alleged that the JIT did not make the verified documents
submitted by Hussain Nawaz as a part of its report.
He said Hussain was not asked questions regarding the
UAE Justice Ministry’s letter during his appearance before the JIT.
Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan remarked that JIT verified documents from
Dubai, UAE.
Salman Raja said that UAE administration in response to the
JIT letter stated that neither 12 million Dirhams nor steel
cargo was shipped to Qatar.
Salman Raja said that the court should grant time
for submitting verified documents after getting them from the
Dubai government. Salman Akram Raja also submitted more documents on behalf of his clients, including one acquired from Abu Dhabi Customs to prove that machinery from the Gulf Steel Mills did
move from Dubai after its liquidation, and an invoice from
Ahli Steel Company confirming the shipment of dismantled
rolling mill equipment from the Al-Azizia Steel Company. He
also presented documents detailing cargo shipments
from UAE to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The bench remarked that as per the record of the steel
company 21 million Saudi Riyals were overdue.
The lawyer replied that these documents were obtained by the JIT
through its own sources which claimed that Azizia steel mill was sold
for 42 million Riyals instead of 63 million Riyals.
Justice Ijaz asked whether someone else cleared the dues
of Azizia Mills. Upon this Salman Akram replied that he could confirm
it after getting information from his clients. Justice Ijaz
remarked that there were three partners in the Azizia Steel Mill but
the mill was solely sold by Hussain Nawaz.
He asked whether Hussain
Nawaz bought shares of other partners as earlier it was told the
court that Power of Attorney was available but it was not
submitted before the court.
Salman Akram said that it was a settlement between
family members and no written document was available in that
regard. Justice Ijaz asked the lawyer to prove his claim
through documents that others were also given their due shares.
Salman replied that the JIT did not ask this question. He
said that witnesses can be summoned over selling of Azizia Mill.
The other two shareholders also did not challenge the sale deed,
he added. Justice Ijaz remarked that the prime minister’s
scions were residing in the London apartments since 1993, but the
court could not find sources of income and money trail of
their purchase.
The lawyer also presented a document from JPCA Ltd dealing
with the ownership of Nescoll and Neilsen as well as papers
from Minerva Financial Services Limited, the holding firm for
both companies.
Salman Raja also submitted a 17-page objection on
the JIT report to the court, pleading for dismissal of the report
and its evidence. The application objects to the source material
used by the JIT in its final report, saying it is unverified.
At the outset of hearing the bench expressed its
displeasure over the issuance of Qatari prince’s letter to
media and remarked that the documents submitted by Salman Raja
were already being debated in the media.
Justice Azmat Saeed remarked that there was a media
trial outside the court. There’s a media podium outside the court
and he should give his arguments there as well, he added.
In response, Salman Akram Raja said that he had not
provided the media with any material or documents.
He objected to the JIT’s conclusion that recording Sheikh
Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani’s statement would be
unnecessary, urging the court that there should be a complete
inquiry into the matter.
The court, however, dismissed further investigation into the case,
saying that since the JIT had completed its work, the documents
regarding two Qatari letters had been sent to the Registrar and the
court decision will be based on the documents.
The judges said that the court would give its decision based on the documents and evidence not on the basis of JIT recommendations.
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan remarked that if the prime minister’s children failed to give convincing answers on the money trail, the public office holder would have to face its consequences.
Justice Azmat Saeed pointed out that Al-Thani was asked
to appear before the court in Pakistan, or record his statement
at the Pakistan Embassy in Doha, but he declined both the options.
“Are we all supposed to go to Doha?” he asked.
Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan asked to show the law’s firm
account through which the transactions were made. “This is not
Panama or Africa, it is England and all the records will be
available,” he added.
The lawyer said Prince Al-Thani can give answer about the missing records, to which the court remarked that the Qatari prince had refused to answer even via video link.
An official letter from Sheikh Al-Thani addressed to the
JIT dated July 17, 2017 was also submitted in the court, in which
the former Qatari prime minister verified that he had not
received any confirmation yet from the JIT regarding his
appearance before any court of law in Pakistan, or tribunal for
any purpose whatsoever.
The Qatari prince added that upon receiving such
confirmation, he would propose a meeting in Doha in the coming week
with the JIT to confirm the veracity of his previous
two statements.
Justice Ijaz observed that producing the Qatari prince before
the JIT was Hussain’s responsibility as the Prince was
his `star witness.’
Justice Azmat aked Salman Akram Raja to answer about law firm
Mossack Fonseca’s claim that Maryam is the owner of the London
properties.
Justice Ijaz inquired from Salman Raja regarding the Azizia Mills’
money trail: “We have been asking for a year and a half now as to how the money went to Jeddah but there has been no response so far,”
Justice Ijaz observed.
The counsel replied that they had provided the answers but the
court did not accept them is a separate issue.
Justice Azmat Saeed observed that those who benefitted from the Hill
Metals Establishment are known, but the funds from where the company was set up are not known.
Justice Ijaz remarked that if there’s no evidence that
a wrongdoing was committed then there is also no proof that the
right thing was done.
Salman Raja responded that when the matter goes to
the relevant forum, the clarification will come too.
Justice Azmat observed that the bench does not want to
have an effect on anyone’s basic rights or on the case.
The judge then asked what happens if fake documents
were submitted in the court, to which the additional attorney
general responded that a case is registered.
Justice Ijaz remarked that a seven-year imprisonment
is the punishment for the offence.
Salman Raja replied that senior lawyer Akram Sheikh was the
Sharif family’s counsel at the time these
documents were submitted. Raja informed the bench that the
Calibri font could have technically been used in 2006.
Justice Ijaz remarked that February 4, 2006 was a
holiday in Britain, saying even no one picks up their phone in Britain
on a holiday. “What do you have to say?” he asked
the counsel. Salman Raja responded that possibly a mistake was
committed in that regard.
Justice Azmat observed that the Supreme Court could not sit
with its eyes closed. He remarked that the law would take its course
and the results of that will not be good for the respondents.
Responding to the judge’s assertion that the prime minister took
a salary from the FZE Capital, Salman Raja said it was not the case.
Replying to Justice Ijaz’s query as to how funds reached the UAE
for use by FZE Capital, Raja said he will respond to this in the
court tomorrow. The counsel said he sticks to his earlier position
that the prime minister and his children did not do anything wrong.
Before the conclusion of proceedings, Finance Minister
Ishaq Dar’s counsel Dr Tariq Hassan said that he would continue
his arguments on Friday, to which PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari said
he would cross- question the counsel statements.
Later, hearing of the case was adjourned till Friday.