Two pages in the Panama Papers mentioning the name of Maryam Nawaz as the beneficial owner of two offshore companies — Nielsen and Nescoll — are not at all any ‘official documents’ and basically these are the letters written by a private service providing firm in response to queries of an investigating agency on the basis of misunderstanding of one of its employees, says country’s top lawyer Akram Sheikh in an exclusive interview to The News.
Sheikh, who is counsel for the three children of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court, said these two pages had no value whatsoever, as the official record of the ownership of the companies was different.
It is important to mention that Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based legal services providing firm, in response to queries from Financial Investigation Agency of British Virgin Island, had responded through two different letters on June 22, 2012 that Maryam Safdar was the beneficial owner of two BVI offshore companies — Nielsen and Nescoll. The Panama Papers comprise only the documents leaked from the records of Mossack Fonseca.
Among many other documents of the Panama Papers related to offshore companies linked with the family of the PM, these two letters were the only documents pointing out that Maryam Nawaz was the beneficial owner of Nielson and Nescoll.
Sheikh said he had advised Hussain Nawaz to transfer the flats in his own name and abandon the offshore companies, which came under discussion only because the previous owner owned these flats through these offshore entities.
Akram Sheikh told The News that after acquiring the ownership of these two offshore companies from the Al Thani family of Qatar in 2006 by obtaining bearer shares, the service providing firm was informed and relevant documents were submitted to it.
“Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz were clear that they had submitted documents to the service providing firm which clearly imply that Hussain Nawaz is the beneficial owner and Maryam will control the assets as trustee with no benefit of any kind and with the only objective of distributing assets linked with offshore companies among the children of Hussain,” Sheikh said, adding, “However, the understanding of the concerned employee of Mossack was different and wrong and on the basis of this wrong understanding he responded to Financial Investigation Agency of BVI with wrong facts.”
Sheikh said the documents provided by Hussain Nawaz to Mossack clearly describe Maryam as the trustee of properties.
“Neither any member of Hussain Nawaz’s immediate family nor Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif (late), Mian Sharif (late) nor any of their businesses ever used the four Park Lane flats or these offshore companies as collateral for obtaining loan from Al-Towfeek Investment Bank or from some other bank in 1990s,” Akram Sheikh said in categorical terms while responding to another question of The News and added “The documents of London courts papers being provided to the Supreme Court to substantiate these claims are either incorrect or being misunderstood.”
He said that it might have been the claim of some party in litigation in London but these London flats had nothing to do with the acquisition of loan from the Al-Towfeek Investment Bank, UK.
On the question of proof that these offshore companies were transferred in the name of Sharifs only in 2006 and they were not the owners before 2006, Sheikh explained that these offshore companies had legally issued bearer shares and the one possessing or holding these bearer shares will be the owner of the offshore entities.
He said the service providing company was updated with the information of transfer of bearer shares and thus the ownership of Nielsen and Nescoll in 2006 as per requirements.
He said the witness statement of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani that he handed over the bearer shares to the representative of Hussain Nawaz is sufficient evidence that the transfer took place in 2006.
He said response to all other queries is present in the concise statement submitted to the apex court.