Govt depts refute obstructing Panama JIT probe in joint reply before SC

  • Chairman appointed after closure of probe into Chaudhry Sugar Mills, claims SECP
  • Law Ministry says notification issued in three days
  • IB refutes hacking Bilal Rasul's Facebook account
  • Record was sent as soon as possible, responds FBR

ISLAMABAD – The government departments accused of obstructing justice in the purview of ongoing Panama case probe by the six-member Joint Investigation Team have refuted the allegations that they were impeding investigations.

A joint reply submitted in the Supreme Court of Pakistan by the Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf suggested that the institutions including Prime Minister House, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Ministry of Law (MoL) rejected the allegations that they were tampering with the records or delaying investigations into the offshore assets of ruling Sharif family.

PM House Reply

The Prime Minister (PM) House has rejected charges of pressuring witnesses and replied that it appeared from an analysis of the JIT report that the high-profile probe team was tapping the PM House’s phones — which would be an illegal act.

According to the AG’s response, a decision on the JIT’s charges cannot be taken without recording evidence or hearing the point of view of all those involved. It added that this will take time and attention away from the investigation.

The reply suggested that the charges of the JIT can be analysed after the 60-day probe deadline when the JIT has submitted its report to the Supreme Court.

NAB’s Response

The country’s graft buster that was accused of issuing a show cause notice to one of its officers amid the ongoing probe apparently to distract his attention  replied that there was no Mala Fide intention in sending a show-cause notice to its JIT member — Naeem Mangi — as 77 other NAB officers were also sent show-cause notices in light of Supreme Court orders.

‘These notices were sent before the JIT was formed’ claimed NAB.

FBR’s Observation

The Federal Board of Revenue has also rejected all charges levelled against it in the JIT report. In its response, FBR said that the JIT first contacted it for providing records on May 8 and then did so on May 25, May 29 and June 8.

‘The 40-year-old record that was asked for was sent over as soon as possible’ it added further.

Panama JIT accuses govt depts of obstructing justice in explosive reply before SC

The Federal Board of Revenue was blamed for alleged concealment of documents when asked to present the income and wealth tax records and tax returns of the Sharif family from 1985 till date by the Joint Investigation Team.

“The FBR has not taken the plea that it is only required to maintain tax records for five years”, while it has offered only “piecemeal, incomplete and selective” records from 1985 till date, disclosed a report submitted by the Joint Investigation team earlier.

Law Ministry’s Role

The Ministry of Law also rejected the accusations of delaying the probe. It replied that a letter asking for international legal assistance — as instructed by the JIT — was sent in three days.

‘In such cases, there is a need to take the foreign and interior ministries on board in light of the rules of business, which the JIT is well-versed with’ it added.

Intelligence Bureau’s Submission

The premier civilian intelligence agency Intelligence Bureau has also rubbished the observation of Joint Investigation Team that it hacked the Facebook account of Bilal Rasul- a member of JIT representing SECP- and his wife.

“The Facebook account of Mr Bilal Rasul, which is also used by his wife/family, was ostensibly hacked to retrieve the contents attached [with the application]… without the consent of Mr. Bilal Rasul or his family,” the JIT had alleged.

SECP’s Answer

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan also contradicted the claims of Joint Investigation Team that its chairman Zafarul Haq Hijazi closed down the investigations into the Chaudhry Sugar Mills with a view to facilitating the Respondents (the Sharif family) against whom the present investigation in being conducted.

‘The investigations into Chaudhry Sugar Mills was closed back in 2013, but the chairman was appointed after it’ responded SECP.

It bears mentioning that the JIT had further alleged the SECP of tampering with the records of Chaudhry Sugar Mills by Executive Director Ali Azeem Ikram, whose name was forwarded by the chairman to be a member of the present JIT.

Summons Leakage

The high-profile Joint Investigation Team formulated by the apex court after its April 20 judgment had also alleged the government of leaking the summons issued to witnesses linked to the Panama case, however, the blame was deflected on JIT members for leaking the summons, in response submitted by the Attorney General.

JIT’s Explosive Report

Visibly upset over the alleged tampering of records and reluctance of government department to comply with it, the six-member Joint Investigation team tasked to probe offshore assets of Sharif family submitted its reservations in the apex court on Tuesday.

According to the detailed reply submitted by the Wajid Zia led investigative team, PM House, Intelligence Bureau (IB), SECP, NAB, FBR, Law Ministry and other related departments were hindering the investigations into the wheelings and dealings of ruling Sharif family.