More trouble for Nawaz Sharif, Pak probe team recommends new anti-graft case
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More trouble for Nawaz Sharif, Pak probe team recommends new anti-graft case

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s future appeared uncertain after a probe panel recommended the opening of a fresh anti-graft case against him and members of his family.

world Updated: Jul 10, 2017 20:05 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,Panamagate,Panama Papers leaks
File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, at an official event on July 7, 2017. (Reuters)

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faced a fresh challenge on Monday as a panel that investigated corruption allegations against his family recommended the opening of a new case after finding disparities between their sources of income and actual wealth.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court to probe revelations in the Panama Papers leaks about the Sharif family’s offshore assets submitted its final report after a two-month-long investigation during which it quizzed Sharif and members of his family.

The report was not made public but the influential Dawn newspaper said the JIT had found “glaring disparities” between the Sharif family’s sources of income and its assets.

The report, parts of which were circulated in the media, said: “Failure on the part of all respondents to produce the required information confirming ‘known sources of income’ is prima facie tantamount to not being able to justify assets and the means of income.”

The report added there was a “significant gap/disparity” between the declared sources of income and wealth accumulated by Sharif, his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

The report suggested the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s main anti-corruption watchdog, should open a “reference” or case against Sharif and his three children under the provisions of the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance of 1999.

The Supreme Court had taken up the matter after it was petitioned by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party regarding disclosures in the Panama Papers leaks about offshore assets owned by Sharif’s three children.

After receiving the JIT’s report, a three-judge bench the court ordered the opening of a criminal case against Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan chairman Zafar Hijazi, who had been accused by a federal investigation agency of tampering records to favour Sharif’s family.

The bench also ordered a contempt of court notice to be issued to the Jang Group, a leading media house, for a story published in The News daily that speculated on the findings of the JIT.

Citing “sources close to the JIT”, The News reported on Monday that the panel had not held the prime minister responsible for any wrongdoing, though it linked Sharif’s sons to questionable financial transactions.

The Supreme Court said the petitioners and Sharif’s family would be provided copies of the JIT’s report. It also directed the counsel of both sides to appear in court on July 17 for the next hearing of the case.

According to the Dawn, the JIT’s report stated that the “financial structure and health of companies in Pakistan” linked to the Sharif family “do not substantiate” their wealth.

The report also alleged there was “irregular movement of huge amounts in shape of loans and gifts” from companies based in Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates to Sharif’s family and Pakistan-based companies.

The JIT, which had investigated the money trail behind the purchase of several flats in London owned by Sharif’s children, was headed by Federal Investigation Agency additional director general Wajid Zia. It also included representatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence.

The JIT questioned seven members of the Sharif family, including the prime minister. His elder son Hussain appeared before the panel six times while younger son Hassan appeared thrice. Others who were quizzed were Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband Muhammad Safdar Awan, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and finance minister Ishaq Dar, who is related to the Sharif family through marriage.

This is not the first time Sharif has faced such accusations. During his first term as premier, then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had dismissed Sharif in 1993 after accusing him of corruption and of “unleashing a reign of terror” against his political foes.

First Published: Jul 10, 2017 19:54 IST