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Jahangir Tareen case: SC asks whether Tareen used trust to hide assets

Jahangir Tareen case: SC asks whether Tareen used trust to hide assets

The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned Jahangir Tareen's counsel over the trust through which the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader bought property in Britain.

A three-member apex bench ? headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab ? is hearing a petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi which seeks the disqualification of Tareen and PTI Chief Imran Khan over the alleged non-disclosure of assets, existence of offshore companies, as well as receiving foreign funding for PTI.

When asked about the documents pertaining to his argument, Tareen's counsel Sikandar Bashir Mohmand promised the court that he would submit them along with the money trail of the amount that was sent outside Pakistan by his client.

However, the bench appeared dissatisfied with his answer, with the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar commenting that the court had asked for all the documents, including records from the Finance Department, on the first day of the hearing.

Mohmand informed the court that residential land in Britain was bought through Shiny View Limited, an offshore company kept as a trust.

The CJP asked for further explanation of the offshore company and the trust while Justice Umar Atta Bandial asked who the trustee of the trust was.

Mohmand responded that EFG Bank was the trustee while Tareen was the trust settlor. He said that a trust is first made and later bought by an offshore company. In Tareen's case, the trust was created on May 5, 2011.

He said that the documents for the trust and statements of Tareen's children would be provided to the court, but should not be made public.

The court, however, said that it had the powers to ask for any documents it deemed suitable and the lawyer should tell the court why they should be kept secret.

The lawyer further stated that a residential plot worth 2 million pounds was bought through the company and a loan was obtained for its construction by offering the property as collateral.

He said that the company conducts no business activities and Tareen does not have any assets in either the trust or the offshore company.

When asked if Tareen pays off the loan, Mohmand responded that the offshore company pays it back while Tareen funds it via the trust.

"We want to see when and how the funds for the company were sent," the CJP said.

Justice Faisal Arab observed that a public office holder has made a trust using allegedly unlawful funds and does not show them as his assets.

To this, Tareen's counsel responded that making a trust and buying a company is legal. He stated that not even Tareen's children own the house in question.

"The actual question here is about integrity," the CJP said. "Tell us how the money was sent abroad for the company."

Justice Bandial said that Tareen needed to show that he had no control over Shiny View Limited and his directives were not binding on the company.

"Who sends the money to the offshore company?" he asked.

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 a foreign bank's representatives instead of his own children," Justice Bandial wondered.

"A trust like this is a camouflage for hiding assets," Justice Arab commented.

"What benefit would Jehangir Tareen get from such a camouflage?" Mohmand asked.

He would not have to list it as an asset in his nomination papers, Justice Bandial responded.

Mohmand clarified that Tareen sent his lawful income abroad and that the trust and the company were declared in his children's statements.

Unlike the Avenfield apartments of the Sharifs which had no trail, Tareen has presented the complete money trail, he said.

Presenting details of the property in question, Mohmand said that it is called Hyde House and covers an area of 12 acres. It was bought for 2.1m pounds while an agreement for the construction of the house was worth 2.5m.

The money was transferred through banks, he said.

"Did the tax authorities have access to all of the amount as it was transferred?" Justice Bandial asked.

On this Mohmand said that a foreign currency account is fully protected under the law.

The court adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.

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