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Panamagate: Sharif appears before panel, first Pak PM to depose in graft case

The Pakistan Supreme Court set up a high-level six-member JIT to probe PM Nawaz Sharif and his sons’ alleged corruption in the Panama Papers case.

world Updated: Jun 15, 2017 22:53 IST
Panama Papers probe,Nawaz Sharif,Panama Papers JIT
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves as he appears outside the premises of Joint Investigation Team in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, June 15, 2017. (AP)

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday appeared before a Supreme Court-appointed team probing the Panamagate graft case, becoming Pakistan’s first sitting premier to depose before such a panel.

A seemingly-relaxed Sharif arrived at the Judicial Academy - which has been temporarily turned into the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) secretariat - amid tight security.

According to official sources, more than 2,500 security personnel have been deployed.

The 67-year-old PML-N leader, who was accompanied by his eldest son Hussain Nawaz, brother Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar, waved at party workers and responded to their chants before entering the building.

A large number of PML-N supporters had assembled near the JIT secretariat, waiving their party flags and chanting pro-Nawaz slogans.

“The day that creates history & sets a much required & welcome precedent for others to emulate,” Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz tweeted along with pictures of the PML-N leader and his top aides just before leaving for the JIT.

Dawn reported that the prime minister will face the 6-member JIT panel alone. It was not known for how long the JIT will question him.

The JIT chief Wajid Zia had summoned the prime minister to appear before the probe team on June 15 with all documents relevant to the case.

The summons was issued to Sharif, 67, after he returned last Saturday from Kazakhstan where he had attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.

In its judgement of April 20 in the Panama Papers case, the Supreme Court had constituted a JIT and empowered it to summon the prime minister, his sons and any other person necessary, to investigate allegations of money-laundering, through which the four apartments in London’s posh Park Lane area were purchased.

Sharif has denied any wrongdoing.

The Joint Investigation Team had questioned Sharif’s sons -- Hussain and Hasan -- last month over the family’s alleged improper business dealings.

His eldest son Hussain was questioned five times while Hasan, the youngerson, was summoned twice.

The court last year took up the case and issued a split decision over allegations of money laundering when Sharif was prime minister in 1990s.

On May 5, the Supreme Court set up a high-level six-member JIT to probe Sharif and his sons’ alleged corruption in the Panama Papers case.

The JIT is bound to complete the probe in 60 days unless it is granted additional time.

It is for the first time that a sitting prime minister is appearing before a high-level probe team traditionally constituted to investigate high-profile criminal cases.

The JIT probing the offshore holdings of Prime Minister Sharif and his children has also summoned his younger brother and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, to appear before it on June 17.

First Published: Jun 15, 2017 15:09 IST