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Supreme court adjourns Panama case hearing till July 18

ISLAMABAD, JUL 17 (DNA) – During the hearing over Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report in Supreme Court (SC), Justice Ijaz-ul-Hassan remarked that we are not bound to accept JIT findings.

A three-member SC bench comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Hassan resumed hearing of the final phase of Panamagate case during which an argument over Qatari prince’s letter was taken place between SC judges and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawyer Naeem Bokhari.

Justice Ejaz asked the PTI lawyer whether the Qatari story narrated by Sharif family is self-made or its prince’s letter is bogus or not over which Bokhari said both are false.

The JIT had concluded in its report that “after having investigated the case [of letters] in detail, examination of witnesses [Sharif family members] and receipt of irrefutable evidence from foreign jurisdiction, recording of the statement of Hamad alThani has become inconsequential.”

“On the strength of the overwhelming documentary evidence it is concluded that the appearance of letters of Qatari prince are totally a myth.”

Presenting his stance during the hearing, Naeem Bokhari said the team had found contradiction in the statements of Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz and his cousin Tariq Shafi regarding Gulf Steel Mills issue. The investigation committee had termed Tariq Shafi’s statement as fake, he continued.

Justice Azmat asked Bokhari about the source of Free Zone Establishment company’s (FZE) documents over which he said that they were received by legal assistance. He said the company had also issued Nawaz Sharif’s iqama.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Hassan said the duration of PM’s iqama expired in 2015 over which Naeem Bokhari said that Hassan Nawaz claimed the company was demolished in 2014. He alleged that Sharif brothers were failed to provide Jeddah Mills documents and Hill Metal audit report to the JIT.

Justice Ijaz said that the documents on which JIT relied for Hill Metal report were unverified.

He said that record of the legal assistance from United Arab Emirates is present in report’s volume 10 after which Justice Ejaz said that the volume would be made public if needed.

Meanwhile, Jamat-e-Islami (JIT) and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed also completed their arguments whereas the hearing was adjourned till tomorrow when Sharif family’s lawyer started to present his stance.

PM Nawaz Sharif in April narrowly escaped disqualification after the Supreme Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to remove him by a 2-3 split over documents released by the Panama Papers leak into off-shore wealth.

But it ordered further investigations, and the formation of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) panel that included Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia, Military Intelligence’s Brig Kamran Khurshid, National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Director Irfan Naeem Mangi, State Bank of Pakistan’s Amer Aziz, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) Executive Director Bilal Rasool and Inter-Services Intelligence’s Brig Muhammad Nauman Saeed.

The JIT members during the seven-week period interrogated eight members of Sharif family including Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif, his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif, sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, daughter Maryam Nawaz, son-in-law Captain Safdar, cousin Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and brother-in-law Ishaq Dar and submitted its report on July 10.

Panama Papers had published a leak of documents belonging to Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in April 2016 creating uproar in Pakistan among other countries. The leak was studied by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and stated names of incumbent as well as former leaders of the world who owned shell companies.

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.

The top court took up the case in October last year on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami and reserved the verdict in February after conducting hearings on daily basis.

Imran Khan, the opposition leader who pushed the hardest for Sharif to be investigated, said the premier would end up in jail, and vowed protests if he was not ousted by the court.

“Either we will celebrate in Islamabad or otherwise we will hit the streets to save our democracy and to make sure we send this mafia to Adiyala jail,” Khan told supporters.

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