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Sunday Aug 13 2017

No chance, legal basis for Pak authorities to seize London properties of Sharif’s children

Hasan Nawaz appearing before the Panama case JIT on July 3, 2017. Photo: Geo News 

LONDON: Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s younger son, Hasan, has said the Panama Papers investigation and disqualification of his father is a political plot “designed to damage the political reputation of my father”.

In an interview with The Times, Hasan said he has built properties through a “successful business” in London and each and every penny that has been invested is legitimate and he fears nothing. It is understood that Hasan was speaking in reference to the upcoming National Accountability Bureau investigation (NAB) and accountability court trial ordered by the Supreme Court in its July 28 judgment. 

Hasan said he is the victim of a conspiracy to smear his father on political grounds.

Hasan, who works as a commodity and share trader, said their apartments in London were part of a property development business he began after he left university.

“They have been saying that I have a huge empire of properties from corruption and money laundering,” he said. “I did buy and develop and then sell properties through a very successful business.

“At any one time I did not have more than one or two properties, which were leveraged by UK banks. I have not received a penny from my father and I have not sent a penny to him in my life.”

He said that all his businesses had been registered in the UK, that he was the sole director and owner of the companies and that he had paid all the taxes required.

“The whole story is designed to damage the political reputation of my father,” he told The Times.

In its report, The Times said that the Sharifs’ houses and flats in London worth tens of millions of pounds could be seized by the Pakistani government after claims that they were bought with the proceeds of corruption linked to Nawaz Sharif but lawyers have said that it will be almost an “impossible task” for the Pakistani government to actually seize these properties because there has never been any concern in the UK and records show that Nawaz Sharif’s sons have broken no law.

A top city lawyer, who has dealt with local and international criminal and white collar crimes, told The News that any action seizing any property in the UK needs a registered crime, a victim and a trial as well conviction on that particular crime.

Once that is done, then a UK court could be approached to get the properties seized and in total it could take several years and millions of pounds of legal fees and hiring of expensive lawyers who charge exorbitant legal fees.

The lawyer said that Pakistan’s authorities will be unable to explain to the British authorities how and why it should become part of a case that’s widely seen as “politically motivated” and “full of loopholes and flaws”.

The lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while it was good for media to make such headlines but practically there is no case to begin with and any decent lawyer will advise Pakistani authorities that such a case will not go anywhere; will be met by legal challenges and lacks grounds.

The lawyer said that there is no chance that the British government will get involved in a political case as it has demonstrated so by not entertaining the Mutual Legal Assistance request by the law firm employed by the Panama case Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

He said that the only option that Pakistani authorities could have is to go for private legal action which doesn’t have grounds because no crime has been committed in the UK and basically there is no case in the UK and any action will lack grounds and there could be counter claims and legal actions by lawyers of Hasan and elder brother Hussain.

The JIT claimed in its report to the Supreme Court that Hasan controlled or owned at least 15 flats, houses and offices in Britain. It is understood that the JIT has included each and every property that Hasan and Hussain ever bought and sold as part of their business. Hasan has always accepted that he buys houses, refurbishes them and then puts them on the market for sale.

The JIT was formed to investigate the four Avenfield apartments owned by members of the Sharif family in Mayfair, London.

The JIT said in its report that the records of several companies Hasan founded in the capital showed losses of £10.55 million while he was able to “erect an empire of real estate in the UK”. It added that an “accumulation of Hassan Sharif’s assets shows a drastic hike in the early 90s with no declared source of income”. The report said: This is the period the Sharif family was part of the ruling elite. Hence, JIT believes that his build-up of assets was through irregular means and Hassan Nawaz was used as a proxy to build up family assets.

“It is a reasonable assumption that more properties in the UK have been held by [Hassan] in his name or in the name of his companies…or in the name of his family members.”

Nawaz has said he knows what would happen to him and that he is ready for a fight at all levels. However, in Britain, where the investigation actually centres around, the British authorities have firmly stayed away from the political wrangling and there is hardly any chance that British authorities could entertain even basic requests for help.

It is understood that around half a dozen banks in Britain, that have traded with Hasan and Hussain, have confirmed in writing to his lawyers and the Supreme Court that they never had any concern in reference to Hasan’s business dealings and that there has never been any money-laundering or illegal activity concerns.

The records Hasan has provided to the Supreme Court show that his revenue and customs papers are updated and there is no concern of any kind expressed the revenue and taxation authorities. 


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