SC summons NAB, FBR chiefs in Panamagate case

* Counsel tells top court Maryam Nawaz owned four flats in Mayfair for at least six months in 2006

SC summons NAB, FBR chiefs in Panamagate case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman to appear in-person to explain as to why the bureau had not challenged the judgement of the Lahore High Court (LHC) wherein it quashed Hudaibiya Paper Mills scam of Rs 1.2 billion against the Sharif family.

The apex court directed the NAB chairman to prepare himself for the justification and submit the entire record of 1999 Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference as well as it's quashment by the high court in 2014.

The top court also summoned the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman in person for the board's comments in the Panamagate case on next date of hearing, scheduled for February 21.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who heads the five-judge larger bench hearing the Panamagate case, hinted that the top court could give declaration on honesty under Article 184(3). Referring to the standards regarding burden of proof in the light of international arbitration, Justice Khosa observed that when a criminality comes out of a civil case then the burden of proof is determined through balanced probabilities and on the basis of "more likely than not". When the hearing resumed, counsel for the premier's sons Salman Akram Raja submitted a document stating the engagements of administrator companies, invoices, expenses and dissociation.

The document stated that the payment for the flats had been made to Minerva Services by Arrina company through Barclays Bank in 2014. Raja told the court that Maryam Safdar, PM's daughter, remained a trustee of the Minerva Financial Services between February and July of 2006, as she possessed bearer shares in 2006.

He further added that after the cancellation of bearer shares, the registered shares were issued in July 2006 and Minerva Services had appointed directors to Nielsen and Nescoll Ltd, adding that the shares were later transferred from Minerva to the trustee in 2014.

Raja contended that even if Maryam was dependent on her father, the PM, it did not establish that she was the owner of the London flats, owned by Nielsen and Nescoll companies.

With these arguments, it appeared that Maryam had been a beneficiary owner of London flats for more than five months in 2006.

Raja further contended that after cancellation of bearer certificates, Maryam no longer remained a shareholder, but she continued to act as a trustee.

On this, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of the larger bench, observed that this matter would be checked with foreign laws. He, however, asked for documentary evidence, which could show the authorised representatives of Minerva Services.

The bench further observed that it wanted to look at the investment for Hussain Nawaz's expensive properties in London's posh area, adding that if Maryam Safdar was acting as the representative of her brother then the court would want to see those documents as well.

To this, Raja referred a trust deed that was executed between Maryam and Hussain Nawaz. He further said that Minerva was authorised by a trustee service company, which was now owned by the PM's son.

He further said that he had completed the chain of facts, adding that if there was any doubt then the petitioners, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, should come up with evidence.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan lamented that what this court should do when even the petitioner, the PTI, was unable to provide substantiating evidence to establish their case, adding that the story set up before this court by the Sharif family was unbelievable.

Justice Khosa asked whether not submitting documents was his strategy. However, Justice Khan, in a lighter note, observed that a strategy was a better word; "it is gambling".

Recalling the statements, Justice Khosa said that the PM twice claimed that the properties were purchased, which was later contradicted by his sons, and most of his cabinet ministers gave contradictory statements.

Justice Khan told Raja that he was supposed to give information rather than "creating" new information regarding the flats.

Justice Khosa, however, remarked that this court was conducting proceedings of an adversarial nature, but after completion of arguments by counsels for both parties, it would see whether inquisitorial proceedings should be initiated.

Justice Saeed observed that one thing was missing -the "will" by either parties. He said that two cases were before the court - disqualification over London flats and disqualification in the wake of Panama papers. He observed that it had become a matter of political rivalry instead of corruption.