ISLAMABAD - The counsel representing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Jehangir Tareen told Supreme Court on Tuesday that his client remitted 4.7 million pounds from Pakistan to London for the construction of a palatial house in Hampshire, UK.

When a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar resumed the hearing on PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi’s petition against Tareen for non-disclosure of his assets and having an offshore company, Sikandar Bashir, representing Tareen, said that sending money from Pakistan was lawful and the sum was remitted through banking channels. He said that the asset (house) was not revenue-generating, but the father (Tareen) purchased the property for his children and grandchildren and there is no ownership of the settler(s).

Bashir contended that Tareen’s house is not like Avenfiled apartments owned by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family and created from the money earned abroad. He said that the Sharif family did not provide money trail, while they have documents of the transactions and have supplied records to the court.

He said that the PTI general secretary created the offshore company with the name Shiny View Limited on April 27, 2011. It owns a house under the discretionary trust, which was irrevocable. The revocation was possible only through high court. He said that the company is operated through a trust —EFG Bank — which was created on May 5, 2011, and registered on May 10, 2011, under the (law) of British Virgin Islands.

“The Hyde House is constructed on 12 acres at Hyde Lane, Akin Wells, Akin Wells, Hampshire, London. The price of the land was GBP2.2 million, while GBP 2.5 was spent on its construction,” Tareen’s counsel said.

The chief justice directed Tareen’s counsel to provide a copy of the trust deed to Abbasi’s lawyer.

Justice Faisal Arab inquired whether a large amount of foreign currency could be remitted without the permission of the State Bank of Pakistan. He also asked could a public-office holder create the asset using unlawful funds and does not declare it. Sikandar responded that creating a trust and a company was legal.

Sikandar said under the law there was no requirement to report it. However, he said somehow it was disclosed to the authorities. He said section 3 of Foreign Currency Accounts (Protection) Ordinance 2001 overrides the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act, 1947.

Sikandar said that according to the settlement agreement the trustee shall hold the asset at its own discretion. The chief justice asked the counsel to demonstrate that though it’s Tareen’s property, he has no control of it.

Justice Umar Atta Bandial asked whether Tareen handed over everything to the trustee (EFG Bank). He said, “you mean to say that the trust was the vehicle and the structure (property) is lawful”.

Justice Faisal said that Tareen did not declare the company and the asset in the nomination papers because they were not in Tareen’s name. Sikandar replied in affirmative saying, it was true. The chief justice said, “you are saying that whatever was your asset you gave it to the trust and afterward did not have any connection with it”.

“Legally, I am hermetically sealed and the moment sent the dollars I relinquished,” Sikandar said.

Justice Bandial said a man says; “I created the trust which owns the property. His children can live in it, but can’t have it. He said that it is unfathomable that Tareen made a house for his children but they are not its beneficial owners and that they can only live in the house but cannot sell the asset. “Tareen trusted foreign bank’s representatives instead of his own children,” Justice Bandial said.

Justice Faisal questioned can it be said that the money was sent through legal means and with that amount purchased the asset, which was disproportion to the income. Since it is operated by the trust, therefore, there was no need to declare it.

Justice Bandial said the trust meant to camouflage, adding “the company and asset will not be declared as you (Tareen) are not legal owner though the money was sent from Pakistan for it”.

Sikandar said, “I (Tareen) have no advantage in concealing the property. It was my lawful income and the asset was purchased through lawful income.”

Justice Faisal asked even if the asset was acquired through legal or lawful means then should it be declared or not? The counsel contended that it is not camouflaged. The chief justice asked is it not camouflaged not to declare it.

The chief justice said that the property through a mechanism could be acquired abroad, as legally you and your children don’t have any connection with the asset as it was under the trust, therefore, was not bound to declare it in the income tax return, wealth tax return and in the asset and liability statement filed before the ECP.

On the court query, Asim Zulfiqar, an accountant, said that under Wealth Tax Act, 1963, it was mandatory to disclose such transaction in the tax return.

Sikandar also filed tax returns of Tareen’s children but said these were privileged documents. The chief justice questioned how these be privileged. He directed the counsel to get the instruction about it. The court directed him to file the entire record of the offshore company as they wanted to have a complete picture how the company came into being.

The case is adjourned until Wednesday.

 

Tareen remitted 4.7m pounds from Pakistan, SC told

 

TERENCE J SIGAMONY