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Home » Islamabad

Panama Papers case verdict: SC orders JIT formation to probe Sharif family

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday announced the 3-2 spilt verdict in the Panama Papers case, ordering the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family’s involvement in corruption. The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) celebrated the verdict across the country and termed it victory.

A five-judge bench, comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, delivered the landmark judgement after examining arguments presented from both sides in the case. The 540-page verdict was split 3-2 among the bench, with two dissenting notes in the judgement by Justice Khosa and Justice Gulzar, who said that Sharif should be disqualified. Justice Ejaz Afzal had authored the 540-page verdict.

The JIT will present its report before the bench after every two weeks. The investigative team has been given two months time to complete the probe into alleged corruption by the Sharif family. The apex court said that Chairman NAB failed to investigate the case that was why the formation of a JIT had been ordered. It said that the Prime Minister, his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz will have to produce before IJT comprising Military Intelligence (MI), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), National Accountability Bureau and SEC.

The case was filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Watan Party, and All Pakistan Muslim League, who framed the case out of court as a campaign against corruption allegdly committed by PM Nawaz. Sharif’s family — his daughter Maryam, and his two sons Hasan and Hussein were involved in the case. At the heart of the matter is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies. Sharif’s ruling PML-N party insists the wealth was acquired legally through family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.

The prime minister offered to constitute a judicial commission to probe the matter and offered himself for investigations but the ruling PML-N and the opposition parties could not reach a consensus on the terms of references and the matter ultimately landed in the Supreme Court where after lengthy proceedings, the judgement was reserved on 22nd February by a five-member judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Islamabad’s Red Zone was put on high security alert ahead of the Panama leage verdict announcement. The government has deployed 1,500 police, rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel to maintain peace in the Red Zone. Strict checking was conducted at entry points into the Red Zone. Officials deployed at Red Zone entry points were directed to check people. There were 60 to 70 reporters at the Supreme Court on a daily basis, but today hundreds turned out to see the historic verdict of the case. As many as 15 members of each party were given special passes for the entry in the court, while steps were taken to bar the political activists to visit Red Zone area.

Worldwide, The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney-client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities. The documents, which belonged to the Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, were leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source, some dating back to the 1970s.

The leaked documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private. While offshore business entities are legal, reporters found that some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were used for illegal purposes, including fraud, tax evasion, and evading international sanctions.

“John Doe”, the whistleblower who leaked the documents to German journalist Bastian Obermayer from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), remains anonymous, even to the journalists on the investigation. “My life is in danger”, he told them. In a May 6 statement, John Doe cited income inequality as the reason for his action, and said he leaked the documents “simply because I understood enough about their contents to realise the scale of the injustices they described”. He added that he has never worked for any government or intelligence agency. He expressed willingness to help prosecutors if immune to prosecution. After SZ verified that the statement did come from the Panama Papers source, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) posted the full document on its website.

Because of the amount of data, SZ asked the ICIJ for help. Journalists from 107 media organizations in 80 countries analyzed documents detailing the operations of the law firm.After more than a year of analysis, the first news stories were published on April 3, 2016, along with 150 of the documents themselves. The project represents an important milestone in the use of data journalism software tools and mobile collaboration. The documents were quickly dubbed the Panama Papers. The Panamanian government strongly objects to the name; so do other entities in Panama and elsewhere. Some media outlets covering the story have used the name “Mossack Fonseca papers”.

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