ISLAMABAD - The joint investigation team (JIT) findings regarding Avenfield Apartments (London flats) are based on experts’ opinion instead of substantial documentary evidence.

It appears from the report that the JIT instead of reaching out to the original sources, heavily relied on the opinion of experts and the testifying documents already submitted in the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.

The implementation bench of the top court had constituted the JIT for investigation and collection of evidence, and not to draw conclusions on the basis of the respondents’ statements.

The JIT has also drawn conclusions on a number of issues about which it has yet to receive any reply under Legal Mutual Assistance (LMA).

This was the reasons it had requested the apex court to keep Volume 10 of its report confidential, which relates to the LMA.

The majority of the JIT findings on the London flats is in the form of “it is their opinion” or “it could be likely”.

On London flats, which was the focus of Imran Khan’s petition, the JIT failed to dig out any concrete evidence or material on the basis of which it could be stated that the evidence is beyond reasonable doubt that Avenfield Apartments were in the possession of Sharif’s family in 1993 to 1996.

The JIT has declared Maryam Safdar beneficial owner of London flats on the basis of a Queen’s counsel’s opinion.

In its conclusive finding on page 55 of Volume 1, which carries the summary of the investigation, it is mentioned: “Maryam Safdar had been the real beneficial owner of Neilsen and Nescoll offshore companies and owned Avenfield properties in 2012 and before. Her present status with reference to ownership of these properties could not be checked/verified in the absence of record/evidence, which the respondents were required to provide in line with Qanoon-e-Shahdat.”

The team wrote to a British solicitor Jeremy Freeman for his comment to authenticate the trust deed and also attached the document that respondents had produced in the court.

According to the report, Freeman examined the documents and confirmed he saw the original documents, which are identical to the copies attached to another solicitor Quist’s letter.

He also confirms the contents of January 5 correspondence between him and Hassan and Hussain Nawaz regarding documents they had submitted to the Supreme Court, allegedly correct.

The JIT finding on it is, “That the failure by Mr Freeman to respond in comprehensive terms to Quist’s letter was strongly indicative of the fact that to do so, namely, provide full and honest replies would have incriminated not only Hussain Sharif and Maryam Safdar but also other respondents in addition to Mr Freeman himself.”

Two opinions of English Queen’s counsels Stephen Moverley Smith and Gilead Cooper were filed by respondents and the petitioner in the apex court on trust deed.

Hussain and Hassan’s counsel provided opinion of Smith through CMA 432/17.

According to Smith there is no requirement, under either the laws of England and Wales, or under the laws of British Virgin Islands, for trust instrument to be registered or filed with any authority and that there were no obligation to file or register a trust instrument.

Imran Khan presented the opinion of Cooper in the august court through CP 29/17.

The JIT considered the opinion of Cooper and accepted it.

According to JIT report, “The legal conclusions of Gilead Cooper QC appears to reflect the correct position as these have been reached by considering all of the available facts and are underpinned by English law.”

“If this position is accepted, which the JIT tends to agree with, then the obvious consequence is that the Nescoll/Nielsen Declaration of Trust did not create any valid and lawful trust under English law.”

The JIT’s conclusion that Maryam Safdar was beneficial owner of Nielsen and Nescoll was based on Cooper’s opinion and not the judgment of English Court, which is quite surprising.