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‘What is the reason for these gifts?’: Sharif family money trail under scrutiny in Supreme Court

The focus of the Panamagate hearing on Wednesday returned to a piece of agricultural land which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif allegedly bought in the name of his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, in 2011. The court also inquired after large sums of money that were gifted by the premier’s son Hussain Nawaz to his father.

“We want to know the source of the amount, where such a big amount is coming from,” Justice Ijazul Hassan posed a question to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan as a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa resumed hearing the case.

The judge was referring to an amount of Rs510 million that, he said, Hussain Nawaz, gifted to his father over a period of four years.

According to Justice Ijazul Hassan, the move signalled that a significant amount of money had been circulating.

Makdhoom Khan told the court that an amount of Rs210m was sent by Hussain Nawaz in 2012 and another Rs129.8m was gifted by him in the same year.

“It could be that this is black money. The son (Hussain Nawaz) sent the amount to the father (Nawaz Sharif) and the father bought the land in his daughter’s (Maryam Nawaz’s) name.” Justice Khosa observed.

The judge was referring to agricultural land spread over 5.38 acres in Mansehra district, which is worth Rs243m. The land was declared under Maryam Nawaz’s name by the prime minister in his 2011-12 income tax returns.

“This property was not benami, was it?” asked Justice Gulzar Ahmed, referring to the agricultural land.

“Why did Hussain Nawaz only give gifts to his father?” Justice Ijazul Hassan asked.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed reiterated the bench’s desire to see the records of transactions. “We are not speaking in Persian,” he said. “Present the records,” he told the PM’s counsel.
Maryam Nawaz’s dependence status

Maryam Nawaz’s dependence status was brought into focus once again as Makdhoom Khan maintained that her name was listed as the PM’s dependent on tax forms because there was no other column on the sheet.

“The purpose of writing her name on the form was not to declare her a dependent,” the lawyer argued.

Khan was reflecting on accusations made during the Panamagate case that Maryam Nawaz is a dependent of her father.

“It was alleged that Maryam Nawaz was declared a dependent in the nomination papers. The prime minister does not accept these accusations,” Khan said.

“The premier had said that in his household it is only him and his wife and he has no dependants,” he added.

Justice Gulzar observed that the tax forms had been edited in 2015 and inquired, “When did the Panama matter emerge?”

“Panama came forward in 2016. Before this, the tax forms have been edited,” the prime minister’s lawyer responded.

Makhdoom Khan told the court that accusations of tax evasion made against the prime minister are incorrect.

He said that amounts of money had been gifted by the premier to his daughter through banks.

“A full record of all bank transactions is available,” the lawyer said. “The petitioners have also accepted that the gifts were given through banks.”

The senior counsel told the court that in his arguments, Advocate Shahid Hamid who is representing Maryam Nawaz in the Panamagate case will also reflect on the matter of his client’s dependency.

“How can we listen to two different lawyers on one matter?” Justice Khosa asked the lawyer.
‘Did money come through banks?’

During the hearing, the court also put forth an inquiry regarding the Azizia Steel Mills in Jeddah.

The focus remained on how money received from the sale of the mills was transferred to Pakistan.

“One aspect of the case is concerned with money laundering. The accusation is that the amount was sent abroad through unlawful means,” Justice Khosa observed.

“You will have to give details as to how the amount was transferred,” the judge told Makhdoom Khan.

In response, the counsel told the court that the amount was sent by Hussain Nawaz from Saudi Arabia in 2010.

“Other than this, what other business does Hussain Nawaz have in Saudi Arabia?” Justice Ijaz asked.

The counsel told him that details of the prime minister’s son’s business will be provided by his lawyer.

“Hussain Nawaz gave the gifts in 2010 but the steel mill was sold in 2005,” Justice Ijaz observed.

“We will want to see that the amount of $1.9m came in through banks,” the court said. “It is normally determined whether tax returns were submitted.”

The premier’s lawyer told the apex court that submitting documents regarding the transactions was not necessary since he had argued that gifts were transferred through the banks.

He added that if the court asked for them, details of the accounts will be provided.

“The gifts [given to Maryam Nawaz] are mentioned in the prime minister’s wealth and income tax returns, which have been submitted in the court,” Makhdoom Khan told the SC.

“The accusation is that income has been masked as gifts to evade tax,” the counsel said. “Gifts can only be said to be income when they are given by a person who does not have a national tax number,” he added.

Makhdoom Khan said that he accepts that the prime minister had given gifts to his children but those gifts had been transferred through banks.

“From what business is so much money coming in? Has the father ever asked his sons where the money is coming from?” Justice Azmat asked.

The counsel told the court that the money is coming in from the businesses of the premier’s sons.

“What is the reason for giving the amount as a gift?” Justice Ijazul Hassan asked.

Observing that there are discrepancies between the arguments presented in court and the speech delivered by the prime minister in the National Assembly, Justice Khosa said PM’s speeches would be analysed from all angles tomorrow.

The judge instructed the PM’s counsel to clear these confusions in court when the hearing resumes on Thursday.

courtesy : dawn news

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