Avenfield Apartments
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Panama Papers were released on 20th of April 2016 by International Consortium of Investigative Journalist (ICIJ). Now, the Panama Case has reached its culmination point. Amidst all the hue and cry, the three-member bench of the Supreme Court has conducted the hearing of the case for the fifth consecutive day. The speed with which the Apex Court is pursuing this case indicates that a decision may be expected soon.

Read more: Behold the JIT report! PML-N facade crumbling?

So far, the Prime Minister and his family members have failed to satisfy the SC on many important issues which it raised and were investigated by JIT.

On Friday, 21 July 2017, the Honorable Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the disclosure of Volume 10 of the JIT report which is expected to disclose new evidence. So far, the Prime Minister and his family members have failed to satisfy the SC on many important issues which it raised and were investigated by JIT.

Among the issues reconnoitered by the JIT, the question as to who owned the Avenfield Apartments stands out for a number of reasons. It not only contradicts the stance of Ms. Maryam Safdar of her not having any property abroad but also links the Gulf Steel Mills with these flats and the resulting discrepancies henceforth. It opens up the entire Pandora box and exposes the money laundering and massive corruption of the ruling family.

Read more: SECP under scrutiny, Panama JIT approaching its climax.

JIT report on the Ownership of Avenfield Apartments: A brief overview

Facts of the case:

The Qatari investment with Mr. Fahd Al-Thani became the primary explanation for the origin of funds that were available to the Sharif family, not only for the purchase of these apartments but also for overseas businesses established by the Sharif family.

The Sharif family had taken over the possession of Avenfield Apartments soon after they were purchased between 1993-96, through British Virgin Island (BVI) Companies, Neilson, and Nescoll. Between the time period mentioned above, Mr. Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, in their tender years, started living in these flats. The Qatari investment with Mr. Fahd Al-Thani became the primary explanation for the origin of funds that were available to the Sharif family, not only for the purchase of these apartments but also for overseas businesses established by the Sharif family.

Read more: PM appears before the JIT: A test of accountability

According to Mr. Hassan and Hussein Nawaz, the sale proceeds of Gulf Steel mills were utilized for the purchase of these apartments in addition to the establishment of various businesses in the UK and Saudi Arabia.

According to Mr. Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, the sale proceeds of Gulf Steel mills were utilized for the purchase of these apartments in addition to the establishment of various businesses in the UK and Saudi Arabia. However, all this was done by using cash and without any documentation which is very surprising.

The ownership of these flats was admitted by the Sharif family only from 2006 and not before. It was claimed that from 1994 to 2006, BVI Companies Neilson and Nescoll owned these apartments while these companies were owned by the Qatari Al-Thani family.

The issue at hand

JIT in volume IV of its report has investigated a number of issues relating to the ownership of Avenfield Apartments. However, in this analysis, only a single important question shall be discussed.

“Who owned the Nielsen and Nescoll companies and Avenfield Apartments prior to 2006?”

We will try to find the answer to this questions by analyzing some important facts.

Read more: Connecting the dots: The London apartments since the 1990s

Digging out the truth

The bearer shares of Nielson and Nescoll were transferred to Mr. Hussein Nawaz and he became the sole beneficial owner of both the companies and resultantly the Avenfield Apartments #16, #16-A, #17, #17-A.

As stated in the facts, the Sharif family iterated that they got the ownership of the said apartments only after 2006. As per the statement of the defendant, and the documents provided by him, in early 2006, as a consequence of the settlement with Mr. Hamad Al-Thani, the bearer shares of Nielson and Nescoll were transferred to Mr. Hussain Nawaz and he became the sole beneficial owner of both the companies and resultantly the Avenfield Apartments #16, #16-A, #17, and #17-A.

According to Sharif’s, a trust deed was signed between Mr. Hussain Nawaz and Ms. Maryam Nawaz/Safdar declaring Ms. Maryam as the ‘Trustee’ of the Avanfield Apartments. However, Ms. Maryam did not produce the original copy of the Trust Deed before the JIT.

  1. Request for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA)

The JIT requested the British Virgin Islands (BVI), UK and Switzerland for the authentication of the documents provided by the Sharif family. In response to JIT’s MLA, Mr. Errol George (Director, Financial Investigation Agency, BVI) verified his correspondence with Ms. J. Nizbeth Maduro (Money Laundering Reporting Officer, Mossack Fonseca & CO, BVI) as true copies.

According to the excerpts of the letter, the beneficial owner of the Nielsen and Nescoll companies is Ms. Maryam Safdar whose address is “Saroor Palace, Bazoue El Eman st, Ruwais Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

This letter not only proves that Ms. Mariam Nawaz is the real beneficial owner of these apartments but also that she owned these apartments in a period between 2000 and 2005, well before 2006 when the Sharif family claims to have acquired these flats.

  1. The forensic examination of Trust Deed: The Calibri gate

The forensic examination of the “Trust Deed” was conducted by the Radley Forensic Document Library, London on the request of JIT. The Forensic Handwriting and Document Examiner, Robert W Radley stated,

I have identified the type font used to produce both certified Declarations as “Calibri”. However, Calibri was not commercially available before 31st January 2007 and as such, neither of the originals of the certified Declarations is correctly dated and have been created at some later point in time.”

This revelation refutes the stance of Sharif family that they made Ms. Maryam Safdar a trustee of the Avenfield Apartments in 2006. It also proves that Ms. Mariam owned these flats well before 2006 and that the documents provided before Supreme Court regarding the transfer of Nielsen and Nescoll Companies to Sharif family in 2006 and the Trust Deed are forged and incorrect.

Another important case gives us an insight of the ownership of the said companies and apartments.

Al-Towfeek Case

In this case, Al-Towfeek Company represented by one Mr. Shezi Nacqvi, was the plaintiff while the Hudabiya Paper Mills and Mr. Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif, Mian Mohammad Sharif and Mian Mohammad Abbas Sharif were arrayed as the First, Second, Third and Fourth defendants respectively.

When the defendant i.e. Hudabiya Mills failed to return the loans in required time period, a suit was filed in the London High Court. The London court in 1999 had proceeded against Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Mian Abbas Sharif and Mian Muhammad Sharif

The Hudabiya Paper Mills which was the defendant, in this case, acquired loans from Al-Towfeek Company for investment. When the defendant i.e. Hudabiya Mills failed to return the loans in required time period, a suit was filed in the London High Court. The London court in 1999 had proceeded against Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Mian Abbas Sharif and Mian Muhammad Sharif for defaulting on a loan obtained from the Al-Towfeek Investment Fund in the name of Hudaibiya Paper Mills and had attached four properties i.e. the Mayfair apartments.

Read more: The Al Capone formula?

In order to settle the dispute, the defendants reached a settlement with the plaintiff and accordingly a consent order was filed with the London High Court on 25 January 2000. Hence, the US $ 8 million was paid to Al-Towfeek Company by the Sharif family and the dispute was finally resolved.

Despite this fact, Mr. Hasan Nawaz denied that the payment was made by the Sharif family. He iterated that it was actually the Al-Thani family which made the payment.

If Al-Thani family had been the owners of Mayfair apartment as insisted by Mr. Hasan Nawaz, the Qatari family would have challenged this decision and the Court would have been forced to set aside its decision.

Nowhere in the draft consent order, is it mentioned that the defendants do not have a beneficial interest in the Mayfair Apartments. Neither did the defendants filed an appeal before the London High Court to set aside the judgment to attach Mayfair apartments for the payment of the loans. If Al-Thani family had been the owners of Mayfair apartment as insisted by Mr. Hasan Nawaz, the Qatari family would have challenged this decision and the Court would have been forced to set aside its decision. Nothing of this sort happened which indicates that the statement made by Mr. Hasan Nawaz is not true.

The absence of any role or the Association of Al-Thani family in the ownership of the Mayfair apartments or of Neilson Enterprises or Nescoll Limited even as far back as 1999 is clearly established as per the opinion of JIT.

Read more: Curious case of Hudabiya Mills

It can be concluded that Mr. Hussain Nawaz Sharif did not have any independent source of income till 2000, and was dependent on their family. He and his brother’s residence at the Avenfield apartments without payment of rent ostensibly were owing to ownership of the Sharif family at that time.

In the light of the above facts, it can be concluded that Mr. Hussain Nawaz Sharif did not have any independent source of income till 2000, and was dependent on his family. He and his brother’s residence at the Avenfield apartments without payment of rent ostensibly were owing to ownership of the Sharif family at that time. Moreover, it can also be concluded that Mr. Hussain Nawaz who claims to be the ultimate owner of Nielson and Nescoll companies is not the real beneficial owner. Rather, it is Ms. Maryam Safdar who is their real owner and the claim of Ms. Maryam to be the Trustee was an attempt to mislead the honorable Supreme Court by presenting falsified evidence which is punishable under Pakistani laws.

Read more: Panama Case: should Supreme Court render the final judgment?

A new dawn

Friday could well be the end of Nawaz’s third stint as PM, but it could be the beginning of something new and bright for Pakistan. Yes, the people of the country have brought the ruling family to account. What is more commendable is the fact that a due process, a code of law, and principles of transparency have been followed – a first in the troubled history of the country.

The accountability must not be reserved for politicians only. All those involved in the menace of corruption should be held accountable. Pakistan finally seems to have taken a path where everyone would be equal before law and justice would prevail.

1 COMMENT

  1. I believe the author has only attempted to show one side of the coin and not the other.The intents to declare the Sharif”s guilty is in haste.I believe the author of the article should have also given some space to comments/remarks of the judges which went into the favor of the Sharif’s and resultant may not not end the third stint.Take for instance this remark of the honorable judge

    “If Maryam Nawaz is the beneficial owner of the flats, her status as a dependent of the prime minister becomes an issue,” said Justice Ejaz Afzal, while pointing out to Bokhari that he did not provide any clear evidence in this matter in his petition filed to the court.

    The decision to disqualify the prime minister would have to be based on whether or not he hid his assets, said the judge, adding that if Maryam is not proven as the PM’s dependent, then her ownership of the flats is not enough to disqualify Nawaz Sharif.

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