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New report on Sharifs’ London flats may give a new turn to Panama Papers case

New report on Sharifs’ London flats may give a new turn to Panama Papers case

KARACHI: The claim in a report of BBC Urdu that properties owned by the Sharif family in London’s upscale Park Lane neighbourhood were purchased in the 1990s may give a new twist to the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court and further intensify the already charged political environment in the country.

The report quoted by on Saturday says that there has been no change of ownership of the four flats that were purchased in the name of the Nielsen and Nescoll companies since the 1990s.

Political observers believe that the BBC Urdu report will give strength to the claim of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that the Sharifs bought the flats in the early 1990s and put Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on defensive as he has been facing criticism over alleged contradiction in his statements.

According to official documents available with BBC Urdu, an official record of companies doing business in the United Kingdom reveals that when Hassan Nawaz established Flagship Investment Ltd in 2001, the address he provided at the time of registration of the company was that of his Park Lane apartment.

After the leak of Panama Papers in April last year, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son, Hussain Nawaz, had accepted the family’s ownership of Nielsen and Nescoll.

Mr Hussain had said: “The Park Lane apartments in London are ours, two offshore companies, Nielsen and Nescoll, own these flats and I am the beneficial owner of these companies, working under a trust held by my sister Maryam Nawaz Sharif.”

Records obtained by BBC from the department that deals with sales and purchase of land in the UK show that the first flat was purchased by Nescoll Limited on Jan 1, 1993.

The second and third flats where purchased on July 31, 1995 by Nielsen Enterprise.

The fourth flat was purchased by Nescoll Limited on July 30, 1996.

The political observers are of the opinion that the PTI which is forcefully pursuing the Panama Papers case will use the report in the court.

The party’s lead counsel, Naeem Bokhari, during the ongoing hearing of the case, has alleged that the owner of the London flats is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Bokhari has claimed that the flats had been bought between 1993-1996 under the name of the premier’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, who he said was underage at the time and was only made a beneficiary ‘for show’.

The PTI has been trying to establish that Maryam Nawaz, and not her brother Hussain Nawaz, as claimed by the PML-N earlier, was the beneficial owner of Minerva Financial Services Limited, which held Nescoll Limited and Nielson Enterprises Limited — the owners of the London flats.

Supreme Court Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is heading the five-member bench hearing the case, has cautioned the Sharif lawyers that if they were unable to establish ownership of Minerva Financial Services Limited, the court would have to ‘imagine’ that what PTI lawyers claim is true.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2017

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