Case against former Pakistani PM falters as UK denies access to financial information
ISLAMABAD: Case against former Pakistani PM falters as UK denies access to financial information
ISLAMABAD: The ongoing corruption case against Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and some of his family has stalled after UK authorities turned down a request from Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for information about the defendants’ assets and bank accounts.
Official sources told Arab News that this is the second time that UK authorities have requested more specific details from the NAB in response to its letters for provision of the required information.
The NAB has been seeking information under the two countries’ Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to strengthen its case against the ousted prime minister and his children.
“We are disappointed at the response of the UK authorities and will write again to seek the required information,” one of the officials told Arab News, adding that the UK authorities require specific information like IBANs (International Bank Account Numbers) to provide the requested information.
Arab News sources, however, admitted the NAB does not have that specific information available for the Sharifs’ offshore companies, assets and bank accounts in the UK.
Salman Akram Raja, an advocate in Pakistan’s Supreme Court, told Arab News that an institution like the NAB can only obtain information from another country through mutual legal assistance “if it provides specific details of the specific information it seeks.”
The NAB’s request for “any information available regarding the Sharif family’s assets and bank accounts” from UK authorities was, he said, “ridiculous.”
The NAB has so far relied solely on the official confirmation from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in July this year that Nawaz Sharif’s daughter and heir-apparent Maryam Nawaz is the beneficial owner of two offshore companies — Nescoll Limited and Nielsen Enterprise Limited — to drive its case against the family, the officials confirmed.
That information was first revealed in the Panama Papers leak and was later confirmed to a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) set up by the Supreme Court to explore the Sharifs’ assets.
Arab News sources said that, since the Supreme Court did not convict Nawaz Sharif and his family members on the strength of the information leaked in the Panama Papers about the offshore companies in its July 28 verdict, instead referring the matter to NAB for further investigation and prosecution, authorities in both the BVI and the UK are reluctant to provide more information to Pakistan.
“The Sharifs have claimed that the cases are politically-motivated and fabricated,” said the sources. “That’s one of the reasons UK authorities are reluctant to share more details.”
They added that the NAB is relying solely on the JIT report compiled against the Sharif family to prosecute them, “but that may not be enough to prove them guilty of any wrongdoing in a court of law.”
Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer, Khawaja Haris, told Arab News that he was not sure at this stage if evidence from the UK and British Virgin Islands — if provided to the NAB — would weaken or strengthen the case against his client.
However, he added: “I know one thing for sure that corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif are fake and he will soon be vindicated.”