Whether the Supreme Court reaches a conclusion favourable to the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf or not, Imran Khan may congratulate himself on creating enough noise over the Panama Papers and the Sharif family’s involvement to keep this issue a thorn in the PML-N’s side until the 2018 elections.

The Prime Minister’s defence may be fronted by the best lawyers – indeed, even the Attorney General of Pakistan – but once contradicting arguments start to be heard in court, public opinion tends not to extend the benefit of doubt to those giving explanations of considerable and undeniable wealth. An explanation has indeed been offered as to how the flats in Mayfair came to be occupied by the Sharif family, but these recent explanations are markedly different than the last. From sales of Saudi mills, to proceeds from Qatari business, yesterday’s government explanations before the Supreme Court were noted as a departure from the Prime Minister’s own statement in Parliament on the same issue.

In a letter presented before the apex court dated November 6, Qatari prince Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, who served as Prime Minister of Qatar from 2007 to 2013, claims that the London flats were bought by his family for the benefit of the Sharif family, and kept in their custody until 2006 when the deeds were transferred to Hussain Nawaz – the Prime Minister’s son.

As the court was quick to observe, this new explanation flies in the face of the public, official, account given by the Prime Minister in a full house of parliament, when he said that the flats were bought from the proceeds of the sale of steel mills in Jeddah. This is not the only contradiction. In interviews given to the media, Hussain Nawaz repeated this Jeddah narrative, while categorically denying in another interview that any foreign party had provided funds for the purchase.

Of course – and this is the legal team’s intent here – with the onus on the opposition to disprove this chain of events, this letter provides the family with a legal way out; they did nothing illegal. According to this version of events, they made no purchases themselves, remitted no money overseas, and therefore get a pass as these transactions don’t show up on their records. But outside the courtroom the world awaits.

In the eyes of that world, these shifting stances may keep him adrift of legal sanctions and the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard, but in the eyes of the common man, the verdict may already have been passed.