For those who haven’t read the 175 page Avenfield Reference case verdict against the Sharif family. Here’s a summary I prepared after reading the judgment. Feel free to laugh at the ridiculous claims of the Sharif family and their forgeries in court.
- Throughout the trial, the Sharif family lawyers consistently attacked the admissibility of documents produced by the prosecution based on one technicality or another. Yet surprisingly, many of these were documents that the Sharifs relied on from time to time both before the Supreme Court and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
- Multiple contradictory versions were given by the members of the Sharif family as to how the London apartments were purchased. One version according to Mr. Tariq Shafi (a purported business partner of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s father, Mian Sharif) is that a Steel Mill by the name of Gulf Steel was set up by Nawaz Sharif’s father in UAE. In 1980, 75% of the shares of this steel mill were sold by Mian Sharif to settle BCCI’s loan liability whereas Mr. Shafi on behalf of Mian Sharif transferred the remaining 25% (an amount of AED 12 million) to be invested with the Qatari Royal family in 1980. The Qatari family then used this 25% investment to purchase the London flats through offshore companies namely Nescol and Nelsen and transferred the ownership of these flats through a “settlement agreement” in favor of Hussain Nawaz in 2006. This version is flawed for various reasons. Firstly, according to the UAE government, the notarized letter reflecting the AED 12 million transaction that was presented before the Supreme Court and the JIT was forged as no such letter existed and the notary stamps of UAE Notary Public were fake. To date the Sharifs have not taken any action against the UAE Government for claiming that the letter they presented in court was fake.
- Even if the UAE government’s claim of the AED 12 million notarized letter is ignored, it does not explain the fact that even after paying off 75% of BCCI’s loan, an amount of roughly AED 6 million was still owed by Gulf Steel which is why it was not possible to invest any amount with the Qatari family in 1980 before the bank’s dues were cleared. In this respect, two letters purported to be written by the Qatari Royal Hammad Bin Jasim were presented to the Supreme Court. Yet the letters are based on hearsay containing terms such as “I heard” and “I was informed”. The Qatari Royal Hamad Bin Jasim refused to cooperate with the investigation and did not appear in court via video link to confirm that any such investment had taken place or to affirm the contents of the letters the Sharif family claim were written by him.
- Another problem with this AED 12 million investment story is that in his initial speeches Mr. Nawaz Sharif did not speak of any such investment being done by his father. Even Hussain Nawaz who refused to appear before the trial court never mentioned that any such investment had been made by his grandfather in the Qatari family which then transferred him the ownership of the flats in 2006. Not a single document was produced by the Sharifs showing the transfer of ownership by the Qataris to Hussain Nawaz in 2006. Another major flaw with this storyline is that if the flats were not owned by the Sharif family in the 1990s but were owned by the Qatari Royal Family, why did the Queen’s Bench Division attach the London flats in the Al-Taufeeq case when the Sharifs defaulted on their loan payments? Surely, the Qataris should have at least protested in the 1990s when the Queens Bench Division of the UK ignorantly attached THEIR flats to recover money from the SHARIFS.
- During the investigation, Hussain Nawaz and his father came up with yet another story which contradicts this AED 12 million investment claim. According to this version, the money for the apartments was arranged first by selling the Gulf Steel from which a factory in Saudi Arabia and was set up and then this factory in Saudi Arabia was sold and its proceeds transferred for purchase of the London apartments. But if Gulf Steel was sold to purchase a factory in Jeddah what about the outstanding loans that were owed to the BCCI against the Gulf Steel Mill? Ignoring this amusing contradiction, the Sharifs couldn’t present a single document to prove that at least this second version of their story was the right one. It is strange that an entire factory was sold, a new one was set up in a foreign country that too was sold in 2005 and apartments bought in London in 2006 and yet there is not a single document of the entire transaction.
- When confronted with these facts and the documents obtained by the prosecution showing the Sharif’s beneficial ownership of the London flats from the early 1990s, Mr Nawaz Sharif and his daughter conveniently placed the entire burden for disproving the prosecution’s claims on the shoulders of their two fugitive brothers living in London in the same apartments. According to Mr. Nawaz Sharif he has no knowledge of his son’s business deals. Yet surprisingly, Mr. Sharif was Chairman of FZE Holdings, a company owned by his son which regularly did business deals and dished out loans to his son’s other offshore companies which were involved in the purchase of these apartments. It is shocking that a Chairman of a Company dishing out loans worth thousands of pounds to his son’s other companies claims he has no knowledge regarding his son’s activities and how the apartments were bought.
- Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam had to dispel the prosecution’s version that she was the beneficial owner of the London apartments. She claimed in her interview in 2011 the she did not own any property within or outside Pakistan. According to the Trial Court, all statements given on the media were admissible evidence according the Pakistan’s law of evidence which allows evidence obtained through electronic means to be used in legal proceedings. Maryam Nawaz never denied her 2011 interview in court. She and her fugitive brother Hussain relied on a Trust Deed showing that Maryam was merely a trustee of the apartments and not the owner. This trust deed was drafted in Calibri font which did not exist commercially before 2007 as certified by a foreign expert in court. Believing Maryam Nawaz’s claim meant accepting the unbelievable assertion that she was one of few people in the whole world authorized by Microsoft to test the Calibri font in 2004-05. Forensic examination of the trust deed also showed that it had been tampered with to mislead the court into believing that this deed was made somewhere around 2004-05.
- The Sharifs presented forged documents before the Supreme Court, the JIT and the trial Court. Different members gave different versions of how the London apartments were purchased. When confronted with documents showing that the ownership of the London apartments vested in the Sharif family from the 1990s-which was a time when Nawaz Sharif’s kids were teenagers with no sources of income- they could not even come up with Memorandum and Articles of Association of their offshore companies or any genuine document proving either version of their claim.
The Sharifs response to this damning verdict is that it is all a “conspiracy”. Their laughable claim means that the army, the hackers who leaked their offshore properties in the Panama Papers, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, the members of the prosecution, the UAE government, and the authors of the Daily Mail column who leaked their millions of assets in the UK were all part of a “conspiracy” against “democracy” in Pakistan. The fact that they presented forged documents in legal proceedings, took completely contradictory stances and failed to present a single proper document in court is also a “conspiracy”. If you still believe their nonsense, keep deluding yourself.
By Hamza Gulzar
Detailed judgement of Avenfield reference case
Accountability court sentences Nawaz Sharif to 10, Maryam 7 years in corruption case; former PM, daughter also fined £8 million and £2 million respectively; Safdar gets jail term of one year