ISLAMABAD - Defence lawyer Salman Akram Raja was given a tough time by the Panama case bench as the court resumed hearing on Thursday.

The questions were about the ownership of London flats, Trust Deed of Maryam, Azizia Steel Mills sale proceeds and the Qatari letters.

The bench is likely to reserve the judgment in the case against the Sharif family after hearing the rebuttals from the petitioners – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Ameer Jamaat Islami Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League President Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, head of the bench, noted that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [being a public office holder] may face consequences if his children fail to prove wrong the allegations against them.

The three-judge bench also hinted that the daughter of PM, Maryam, could be proceeded against for submitting forged documents.

The bench pointed out that the stamp on trust deed of Maryam Safdar carries the date that fall on Saturday, which is a holiday in the UK. The signatures of Maryam on the documents too do not match, it added.

However, representing Maryam, Hussain Nawaz and Hasan Nawaz, Salman Akram Raja tried to comprehensively reply to all the queries of the bench.

The counsel said that there was no allegation against his clients as they did not acquire the properties, which were transferred to them. The funds were made available by the grandfather.

There was no wrongdoing on the part of respondents 6, 7 and 8 (Maryam, Hussain and Hasan), and the entire structure created by the joint investigation team (JIT) was superficial, he asserted.

The court said that Qatari Prince Hammad bin Jasim bin Jaber Al-Thani should have appeared before the JIT. He did not record his statement even through video link and refused to go to the Pakistani embassy for recording of statement. He even refused to accept the jurisdiction of the Pakistan courts.

Raja said the JIT should have gone to Qatari palace for recording the statement of Sheikh Hammad. He said the prince wanted assurance from the JIT that he would not be subjected to any coercive procedure.

When Raja read the Supreme Court’s judgment in Arsalan Iftikhar case, the bench members became quiet for some time. Then the court said the respondents should have produced documents on his behalf.

Raja told that funds for the payment of Al-Towfeek case, for London flats and the Flagship Company came from the Qatari sources.

The court noted that even the Qatari letter had not mentioned Azizia Steel Mills and Hills Metal Establishment.

Salman Raja said that Qatari had mentioned that there were other [financial] matters too [besides what he had stated in his letter].

The counsel accepted that respondent No 1 (PM) was employed by Jabel Company and was entitled to salary, but he said Nawaz did not receive salary as there was a private arrangement between the father and the son [Hussain] in this regard.

Earlier, the court noted that in view of the confirmation of documents by the financial investigative agency BVI and the forensic report, Maryam Safdar is found of committing forgery.

Justice Ijaz said Maryam has produced fake documents in the apex court.

Justice Azmat asked from Additional Attorney General Rana Waqar about the sentence for committing forgery. He replied this is a crime under section 426 of CrPc, and has seven-year imprisonment.

Justice Ijaz also noted that the confirmation of the documents under Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) has belied the stance of the respondents.

The counsel contended that the JIT did not confront these documents to his clients.

Justice Ijaz said the Ministry of Justice of United Arab Emirates in its letters said that there is no record of tripartite agreement, sale proceed of 25 percent agreement of 12 million Dirham and court notarisation. The UAE Ministry also did not find record of transfer of scrap from Dubai to Jeddah, he added.

The court observed the JIT on the basis of MLA declared that the affidavits of Tariq Shafi are bogus and fake.

Raja said his clients stand by their documents and requested the court to send them to UAE authorities for verification.

Justice Azmat said if they again deny these documents then what would happen. The lawyer said Hussain Nawaz was summoned five times but the JIT did not confront him on this issue.

Justice Ijaz said the Dubai government declared those documents fake but “you claim that those are correct”. He said according to the verification of the documents, the Gulf Steel Mills machinery did not go out of Dubai.

Raja argued that this position was taken by the Ministry of Justice, UAE. But the correct position is that the machinery left Dubai and reached Jeddah. He also produced new documents in this regard.

However, the court doubted their veracity, saying those were not certified.

Justice Ijaz said for the last one year they have been asking the respondents to provide the documents but they did not supply the relevant record.

Justice Azmat said by submitting new documents the gaps are filled incriminatingly.

Raja said they have all the resource material and the bank statements.

Justice Ijaz questioned how much did Hussain Nawaz receive from the sale of Aizizia Steel Mills after paying liabilities of 21 million Saudi Riyals.

The counsel replied that the Mills was sold at 63 million Riyals, and the entire amount went into the account of Hussain, adding the liability was not paid from those 63 million riyals but somebody did pay it.

Justice Azmat questioned where that money was used.

The counsel said that it was taken to the United Kingdom but later brought back to Saudi Arabia.

Justice Ijaz asked when there were three partners – Abbas Sharif, daughter of Shehbaz Sharif and Hussain Nawaz - then how the entire amount went into the bank account of Hussain. He said when this question was asked by the JIT Hussain Nawaz told them that he has power of attorney in this regard but did not submit it.

Raja argued that it was the family matter and there might be some oral agreement between them. He said there were no allegations against his clients.

However, Justice Azmat said the allegations started in view of the four London flats.

Justice Ijaz said that the flats were constantly in the possession of the Sharifs since 1993 and before children, the property remained in the possession of Nawaz Sharif.

The judge said the flats were owned by Nielsen and Nescoll companies registered with British Virgin Island. He said in response to JIT request for MLA, the FIA of BVI confirmed the documents and according to that Maryam Safdar is the beneficial owner of the two companies.

Raja contended that the FIA letters are the statements of facts and not the allegations.

But Justice Ijaz said those were the confirmation of the documents which were submitted before the court.

Raja said the fact is that Hussain Nawaz is owner of the flats.

Justice Ejaz said even if it is presumed that Hussain is the owner then from where he got the resources to purchase these flats in such a young age. The assets are beyond the known sources of the PM’s children, he added.

Earlier during the hearing, Justice Ijaz expressed resentment over publicising of some documents on the media before their submission to the court.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed told Raja that “you should better present your arguments before media at the dais installed outside the court as your said documents were [already] under discussion on different channels”.

The counsel however responded that he didn’t give any record to the media.

The case was adjourned until today (Friday).

Raja faces tough questions in SC

TERENCE J SIGAMONY