Islamabad, The joint investigation team (JIT) probing allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family has made startling allegations accusing government institutions and departments of tampering records, creating obstacles in the probe and even threatening members of the six-member team.
In a damning application filed with the apex court earlier this week, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the JIT informed the Supreme Court about the various challenges they have been facing in concluding the investigation within the stipulated two-month timeframe.
SECP ‘tampered’ record
Led by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia, the JIT alleged in its application that Chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Zafarul Haq Hijazi “was instrumental in closing the investigation of money laundering case launched against Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited”, which is owned by the Sharif family, in 2016.
“This act of backdated closure of investigation… is a criminal act, with a view to facilitate the Respondents (the Sharif family) against whom the present investigation in being conducted,” it said.
It said the SECP chairman’s orders to tamper the record and close investigation against Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited were executed by SECP Executive Director Ali Azeem Ikram, who was incidentally nominated initially by the chairman to be a member of the present JIT “with a clear intent to subvert the investigation of the JIT”.
The application further accuses the SECP of restricting its own officers from inquiring about the requests handed to them by the JIT.
The JIT said it had asked the SECP to provide any documents pertaining to investigations carried out regarding Chaudhry Sugar Mills or any other company related to the Sharif family. However, an SECP officer ─ whose name was withheld for security reasons ─ claimed that the SECP chairman did not allow him to check from all concerned departments of the SECP and confirm whether there were other inquiries against companies owned by the Sharif family.
IB ‘facilitated’ hacking of JIT member’s Facebook
The JIT application also questioned the role of Intelligence Bureau (IB), which works under the federal government, during the course of the investigation.
It said the application filed by Hussain Nawaz to the SC, in which he had raised objections against two JIT members — Bilal Rasul of the SECP and Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) — was accompanied with CNICs of Rasul and Mian Azhar. These CNIC copies bear the requisitioning number printed by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) for identification of the institution/intelligence agency which seeks such documents for official purposes.
“Upon further checking, it has been revealed that the requisition was made by the IB from Nadra and the same was provided to [Hussain Nawaz]”.
In another shocking allegation, the JIT said Hussain’s application contained copies of screenshots from the social media account of Bilal Rasul and his family.
“The Facebook account of Mr. Bilal Rasul, which is also used by his wife/family, was ostensibly hacked to retireve the contents attached [with the application]… without the consent of Mr. Bilal Rasul or his family,” it alleged.
This was done, read the application, “ostensibly through the facilitation of the IB”.
It further said the field staff of IB were “found loitering” near the house of one of the JIT members on May 24. These officials later “adversely questioned” the house keeper of the JIT member, causing fear amongst his family members.
NAB strategy to ‘harass’ JIT member
The National Accountability Bureau is employing an underhand strategy to overawe one JIT member, Director General NAB Balochistan Irfan Naeem Mangi, the application alleges.
Mangi has received a show cause notice dated April 25, 2017 by NAB in relation to the “relevancy of his experience at the time of his induction [in the bureau], back in 2004”.
When Mangi requested NAB authorities to allow him some extra time to respond to the notice as he was occupied with the JIT investigation, the anti-graft body sent him a letter dated May 31, 2017, directing him to submit his reply within 15 days “failing which an ex-parte decision would be taken against him”.
The JIT said the show cause by NAB is likely to distract Mangi in his performance as a JIT investigator and overawe him so that he is harassed.
‘Intentional tampering’ by state institutions
Citing the delay in the issuance of the notification which would have notified member countries of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of the authorisation of the JIT head, the application noted that this was proof enough that “the government machinery is being used so as to attempt to frustrate the proceedings of the JIT”.
The notification in mention was particularly important as it would have enabled the JIT to undertake Mutual League Assistance (MLA) in acquiring or certifying documents from foreign countries.
Laying the blame straight on the government, the JIT application reads: “The matter was intentionally lingered at the behest of [the] Ministry of Law and Justice.”
The application goes on to blame the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) 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.
The literature states: “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.
“No plausible explanation has been given as to why a truncated set of records is being given,” the application continues.
The application also alleges that confidential correspondence is being “consciously leaked” to the media in an effort to undermine and scandalise the investigation.
Witnesses being ‘tutored’
Claims of witness tampering were also levelled against the Sharifs as the JIT alleged that the CEO of the Ittefaq Group, Haroon Pasha, had asked witness Tariq Shafi to come to the Prime Minister House where he was instructed by Pasha to offer statements before the JIT as directed to him at the PM House.
The witness in mention corroborated the facts before the JIT in subsequent sessions, the appication said.
“The Prime Minister’s House and its sanctity is being undermined so as to coercively influence witnesses,” it read.
The document submitted to the Supreme Court also reveals the JIT’s displeasure at the leak which resulted in the summon letter issued to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being distributed to select media outlets.
“It may be noted that the leak of ‘confidential’ letter/information is a crime in itself,” the application stated as it went on to highlight how the release of such sensitive information could “accentuate security at the time of the appearance of witnesses before the JIT”.
JIT members being threatened
Without naming ex-PML-N leader Nehal Hashmi, the JIT criticised the senator for his fiery remarks allegedly against the team members, claiming that Hashmi “explicitly and vociferously intimidated the JIT”.
It also noted that JIT members are being likened to “qasai (butcher)” and “James Bond” as a form of menacing the proceedings, while some elements have issued threats such as “the JIT itself is asking to be attacked”.
The document points out that one of the JIT members is frequently quoted as being the son of General Aziz, which is “factually incorrect and is a source of discomfort for his aging father”.
Prayer to the court
Concluding the long list of stringent allegations, the application requests the Supreme Court to take action against officials from the concerned departments and against those who “unfairly publicly comment in the media in relation to the JIT and this honourable court”.
The application urges the SC to pass “corrective orders so that the government machinery is not permitted to be misused”.
It also seeks the issuance of orders which will ensure the security of witnesses, members of the JIT, their families, while also securing the jobs and tenures of the JIT members and the witnesses.Dawn