Panama Papers: Pak PM Sharif to appear before probe team

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will appear before a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in connection with a probe into his family's assets connected to the Panama Papers, the local media reported today.

Sharif will become the first sitting Pakistani prime minister to appear before an investigating agency.

Sharif has been summoned on Thursday by investigators probing the assets owned by him, details of which were disclosed in the Panama Papers leak, an official at the Prime Minister's house confirmed on Sunday.

On 8 June, the team issued summons asking Sharif "to appear on 15 June at 11 am at the office of the JIT, Federal Judicial Academy, Islamabad".

The summons also instructed the Prime Minister to "kindly bring along relevant record / documents / material" related to the Panama Papers case which will entail nearly all the documents and evidence submitted before the Supreme Court by Sharif's counsel, Makhdoom Ali Khan.

Sources told Pakistani daily The Dawn, finance minister Ishaq Dar may also be questioned by the team before Sharif's appearance.

In its judgement of 20 April in the Panama Papers case, the Supreme Court had constituted the JIT and empowered it to summon the prime minister, his sons and any other person necessary, to investigate allegations of money-laundering, through which four apartments in London's Park Lane area were allegedly purchased.

On 2 June, the prime minister's youngest son Hassan Nawaz appeared before the six-member probe team headed by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) additional director-general Wajid Zia, reports Dawn.

A day earlier, Sharif's elder son, Hussain Nawaz, appeared before the JIT for the third time to defend the money trail of the Sharifs' London properties.

In his first appearance, Hussain refused to answer questions put forth by the investigative body, saying that the JIT's status was "sub judice" as he had already filed a petition before the apex court regarding two of its constituents.

Subsequently, the apex court rejected Hussain's plea, seeking exclusion of the two JIT members.

After each of the next two hearings, he told the media that he answered all of the questions put forth to him by the members of the JIT.

Sharif's government has accused some of the JIT members of having sympathies with opposition parties. The Supreme Court, however, rejected these objections and asked the investigators to continue its work.

In his defence, Sharif told the Supreme Court that the flats in question were originally purchased by a Qatar-based firm in which his family had invested. Later, in 2000, the flats were transferred to his son Hussain.

The Supreme Court took the case last year and in its judgment held that an investigation team should probe the money trail after the Prime Minister's family failed to establish how it had amassed these assets abroad. Two of the five apex court judges had then said that Sharif was not being truthful.