Panamagate Defense Counsel seeks Judicial Inquiry, argues on maintainability of case, jurisdiction of Pak Supreme Court

(Islamabad) — Advocate Salman Akram Raja who is representing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s two sons wants a Judicial Commission to probe the Panama papers, while challenging the maintainability and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the matter being heard by a five-member bench.

As the apex court resumed hearing the Panamagate case on Wednesday, Advocate Raja reminded the court that “this is neither a trial, nor the defendant a witness.”

“I will only argue this case based on the evidence present,” Raja, who represents Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, continued.

“There is no charge against the Prime Minister, so there is no charge against his children either,” he argued.

The record for the Sharif family’s business dealings for the last 40 to 45 years cannot be reproduced, Advocate Raja told the bench, as “it was lost during the 1999 martial law.”

The apex court had asked the Sharif family to produce documentary evidence to establish prime minister’s son Hussain Nawaz as beneficial owner of Park Lane flats in London, in accordance with the family’s claim.

“Where is the document which could show Hussain Nawaz is the beneficial owner of Landon flats?” Justice Azmat Saeed Shaikh asked Sharif family’s counsel Salman Akram Raja.

The top court judge also asked the Sharifs’ counsel to provide the family’s agreement with Minerva Services Limited, a company which the premier’s family claims is a service provider to Nielsen and Nescoll offshore companies owned by the PM’s son Hussain Nawaz.

“Let’s call a spade a spade and show us relevant documents that could reveal who gave payment to service providing company (Minerva),” Justice Azmat asked.

Advocate Raja also argued that the court cannot reach a just conclusion in the case without first conducting a judicial inquiry.

The matter can be sent to relevant departments for inquiry as the Arsalan Iftikhar case determined that trials for cases can be held at corresponding forums, Salman Akram Raja told the court.

“This is not a criminal court, so even if Hassan and Hussain Nawaz are suspects, there is no proof against them,” he added.

“A court has never conducted an independent inquiry in any criminal case,” Raja argued, adding that Article 10 of the Constitution says that every citizen of this country deserves a fair trial and that departments formed under the law should be allowed to do their job.

Meanwhile, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is heading the bench, in his remarks said, “This is the stage which will make or break the Panamagate case.”

Justice Khosa expressed wonder that four apartments in London’s upscale area were acquired for two students (Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz) in 1990s.

On this, the Sharif’s counsel claimed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s nephew Hamza Shahbaz was also studying in the UK at that time. However, he expressed his inability to provide complete documents regarding the ownership of London apartments.

“It will not be possible to give every document regarding the money trail,” Raja told the larger bench, which is hearing a slew of petitions against Sharif family’s alleged corruption.

Justice Khosa observed that the issue was not related to dependency of prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz but it pertained to the ruling family’s integrity.

The top court judge also observed that there was no document which could show how bearer shares regarding the ownership of London flats were transferred to Sharifs by the Qatari royal family.

Another judge Justice Ijazul Ahsen remarked that no document had been produced regarding the generation of money by Qatar investment as well as getting the ownership of London flats. Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked Raja to tell the top court how the London flats were purchased by the Sharif family.

(Based on reporting in Dawn and The Express Tribune)

Panama Papers tweet of interest…

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