Panama Papers case: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son undergoes hours-long questioning

Irshad Salim — Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s elder son Hussain Nawaz was questioned for almost three hours on Tuesday as part of investigation to establish the money trail for the purchase of luxury flats in an affluent neighborhood of London.

It was Hussain’s second appearance before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) comprising six-members from the civil-military establishment formed in line with the April 20 verdict of the Supreme Court in the Panamagate case on offshore companies, money-laundering, corruption.

PM Sharif’s Jeddah-based elder son is said to be the beneficial owner of the London flats.

On Monday, Hussain recorded his statement before the JIT for about two and a half hours, a day after his plea to the Supreme Court for removal and replacement of two JIT members on grounds of “impartiality and past bias” was turned down.

The apex court observed that any JIT member could not be replaced on the basis of ‘mere suspicions’.

Asked by media persons about the attitude of the two JIT members he had raised objections against, Hussain said: “Leave this issue here for now as I can approach the Supreme Court again if I there is anything objectionable.”

Several PML-N (ruling party) MPs, as well as Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Ansar and PM’s Political Secretary Asif Kirmani were present at the Federal Judicial Academy for Hussain’s ‘moral support’, reported local media outlets.

“I appeared before the JIT despite fasting and will appear again if summoned,” Hussain told media persons who swarmed his car right after he came out of the main gate of the academy. Hussain said he had submitted all the required documents and answered all the questions asked by the JIT.

He further said that he was being questioned under a legal process and he was responding to the questions to prove that he respected the law.

He, however, made it clear, “I will approach the court again if I felt that I was not being dealt fairly.”

The investigation team has 60 days to collect collaborating evidences and paper trails if any on the basis of which the three-member bench of the Supreme Court would hand down a final ruling on the fate of the defendants including the Prime Minister.

Opposition parties in Pakistan saw offshore companies owned by daughter and two sons of PM Nawaz as means to either stash wealth in foreign accounts or purchase assets abroad.

Plaintiffs, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, demand that PM Sharif step down and law take its due course.

The National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) President Saeed Ahmad also appeared before the JIT and recorded his statement. Sources confirmed that Ahmad appeared before the JIT – headed by Wajid Zia of the FIA – prior to Hussain Nawaz.

Pakistani member of the International Consortium of Investigation Journalists (ICIJ) Umar Cheema was the first to appear and record his statement before the six-member JIT.

Cheema was part of the ICIJ team that unearthed the Panama scandal. According to a source, Cheema was questioned about the leaked documents, their authenticity and the process of compiling a final report by the ICIJ.

Next in line for cross-examinations and investigation are Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself and his younger son Hassan Nawaz and possibly Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. Pm Sharif’s cousin Tariq Shafi has already undergone interrogation.

In an unrelated note, Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) is all set to be upgraded into the MSCI Emerging Markets Index from Frontier Market Index on Thursday (June 1). The day is likely to see trade orders worth $1.25-1.5 billion, eight-times higher from the usual $150-180 million on average.

Foreigners are estimated to invest the entire allocated amount set aside for Pakistani names MSCI EMI on the first day of its upgrade.

The PSX is expecting foreigners to invest $300-400 million on the day,” a senior PSX official told media.

Pakistani stocks have been Asia’s biggest gainers in 2016. The KSE100 Index has risen about 40% in the past 12 months, the seventh-biggest gainer among 96 primary equity gauges.

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