The joint investigation team which looked into Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family assets in London following the the Panama Papers leak scandal has recommended reopening of 15 cases against the embattled leader, a media report said today. The high-profile scandal is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s, when he twice served as prime minister, to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama Papers leak last year revealed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's children. The six-member JIT which probed the issue submitted its final report to the Supreme Court on July 10.
It said the lifestyle of Sharif and his children were beyond their known sources of income, and recommended filing of a new corruption case against them. Sharif has dismissed the report as a "bundle of baseless allegations". According to the report in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, the JIT has asked the court to reopen 15 old cases, including five cases decided by the Lahore High Court, eight investigations and two inquiries against the prime minister. Of these 15 cases, three were filed during the 1994 and 2011 tenures of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and 12 were prepared during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf, who toppled Sharif's government in October 1999 in a military coup. The case relating to the Sharif family's four London apartments was also among the eight investigations started by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in December 1999. In its April 20 verdict, the Supreme Court asked the JIT to investigate the money trail for the London flats. The court's other 12 questions were related to the sale and purchase of the Gulf Steel Mill, the Qatari letter, offshore companies and other matters. In addition to the 18-year-old investigation into the London properties, the JIT has also recommended reviving cases such as three NAB references and two FIA cases that were quashed by the Lahore High Court. The JIT even found anomalies in the cases quashed by the high court. The report noted "that these cases have also been quashed without conducting a proper trial and without giving evidence a chance to come on record". The JIT also recommended reopening of another case the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) registered the same year of the same nature. Its report pointed out that the LHC had quashed an NAB reference filed against Sharif and Saifur Rehman related to the purchase of a helicopter, allegedly through unfair means, and said it was a "case of further investigation". Discussing the LHC verdict on the Hudabiya Paper Mills reference, the team opined: "It was very well investigated reference which could not get a chance to go under trial and was quashed mere on technical grounds." Regarding the Sharif family's assets reference quashed by the LHC in 2014, the JIT insisted that there was strong evidence against the accused individuals. The team recommended that the SC direct NAB to appeal the acquittal of the Sharif family in these cases. The JIT also recommended that NAB be directed to complete its investigation into the London properties. The JIT also recommended that the SC resume investigations against the prime minister for recruiting 42 employees in the FIA in the late 90s, the forced acquisition of land in and around Raiwind, the construction of a road to Raiwind, receiving funds for the Sharif Trust, assets beyond known sources of income and illegal plot allotments. The SC was also recommended to direct the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to reopen the investigation into alleged money laundering by the Chaudhry Sugar Mills, owned by the Sharif family.
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