Sunday, December 11, 2022
LONDON: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s son-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf has said that he was defamed by David Rose in the Daily Mail newspaper just because he was married into the Sharif family and the paper published lies about him despite knowing that he was never involved in any kind of corruption or benefitting from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Punjab government.
Associated Newspaper Limited’s Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday published defamatory allegations that both PM Shehbaz Sharif and his son-in-law were involved in the embezzlement of funds and the aid money given by the UK govt to Pakistan.
Daily Mail has now apologised for publishing falsehood in the defamatory article and removed the story from its website after publishing an apology, clarification and retraction.
The publication's original defamatory article — which has now been deleted from Google and all Mail websites — had linked PM Shehbaz Sharif and Yousaf with corruption, money-laundering, and misuse of public funds.
After Daily Mail deleted David Rose’s defamatory article that falsely accused Yousaf and PM Shehbaz of corruption, he said in his first interview that he was thankful to the Almighty Allah for the victory.
Yousaf said: “I am thankful to Allah that a fake and baseless news by David Rose has been deleted. This news was planted against Shehbaz and myself when there was an unjust and inhumane government of Imran Khan in place. There was a tyrannical government which dragged me into its hatred of Shehbaz Sharif — just because I was married to his daughter.
“Daily Mail couldn’t prove a single allegation of corruption against me because there was no corruption. The whole news was baseless and fabricated. That’s the reason Daily Mail has apologised and removed the fake news. That was a big fraud in the name of journalism," he added.
Yousaf showed evidence — an email from Daily Mail’s lawyers at Wiggin LLP — establishing that publication had made an offer of apology with conditions to him within six months after both him and Sharif instructed separate lawyers to start defamation proceedings against Daily Mail.
He revealed: “I can now say on the record that Daily Mail made three different offers to me at three different occasions to settle the case before going to trial. With consultation of my lawyer, I rejected three offers because Daily Mail put certain conditions in initial apology offers but it made clear to our lawyers all along that it will not defend our claim and will apologise. Then the publication cited reasons of COVID restrictions and took nine extensions but in the end it surrendered completely. Daily Mail would never have deleted its false news and apologised if it had any chance of success at the trial or if the paper had any evidence of corruption as it had falsely claimed.”
Yousaf said the newspaper had alleged that he knowingly received money from Ikram Naveed, who was a senior executive of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) and was involved in a high level of corruption but the paper had no evidence to back up its claim.
Yousaf said the allegation by Daily Mail was baseless and politically motivated, fed to the paper by former prime minister Imran Khan’s advisor Shahzad Akbar.
“Naveed bought the property from me as a business transaction and he came to us through a dealer. This was not the first asset I sold in my life. I have been running a successful real estate business since Pervez Musharraf’s era. I have so far built and delivered six high-rise building projects in Lahore," he said.
Yousaf further stated that Naveed bought the property through the dealer after negotiations. He said that they did their due diligence that was legally required.
"It was not for me to do forensics of his bank account to verify his accounts or sources of income. We did what was legally required.”
He said that Daily Mail ignored the fact that it was PM Shehbaz Sharif who ordered the arrest of Naveed when it emerged that he was involved in the embezzlement of funds of ERRA.
“As Punjab chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif got Naveed arrested and held him accountable. Why would Shehbaz do so if he was involved in corruption with him or if he knew I was doing corrupt deals with him. The credit goes to Shehbaz for exposing corruption in ERRA and exposing the role of Naveed.”
Yousaf said that the Daily Mail hid the fact from the public that Naveed had bought properties from 41 different builders around the same period including from Yousaf’s Ali & Fatima Developers.
He said he was the only one who was targeted.
"I was the only one who was witch-hunted because I am Shehbaz's son-in-law. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) settled the case with everyone except me because they were interested in victimising the Sharif family through media trials and fake allegations. That was a system of Kuffar, there was no justice and fairness. The whole vindictive campaign was planned but in the UK court Daily Mail couldn’t prove a single allegation and confirmed it had no evidence other than the fabricated papers handed over to David Rose by Shahzad Akbar and the hybrid regime facilitators.”
Yousaf said everyone knows that it was Imran Khan’s government that ran the "fake cases" against the Sharif family. He referred to David Rose holding meetings in Pakistan with Imran Khan, Shahzad Akbar and other PTI leaders before publishing the article.
He said: “David Rose was PTI government's guest and he was fed a full bucket of lies, which was then printed in Daily Mail. They failed in their evil efforts. Allah has vindicated us and I believe that the Almighty Allah will hold these people accountable in this world and the world after for their evil deeds against us.”
Yousaf said he was happy with the apology and removal of defamatory article.
“Shehbaz Sharif has become the first politician of Pakistan who has won such a big defamation win from a big paper like Daily Mail as the paper has deleted the whole article disowning each and every allegation," he said.
He said that the newspaper has promised never to publish any lie against Shehbaz and him. Prior to this, the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) gave a clean chit to PM Shehbaz in the UK money laundering case, he added.
"This is Allah’s special blessing. Truth is out and truth always wins.”
When asked why he gave his defamation case to PTI UK’s senior leader Barrister Waheed Ur Rehman Mian, Yousaf said that Barrister Waheed saw the full evidence before agreeing to take up his case.
“My lawyer agreed to take the case only after seeing the evidence that clearly showed that I had not done any corruption and that I will certainly defeat Daily Mail at the trial. My lawyer was fully satisfied and that’s the reason we won the defamation meaning trial in February 2021 at UK High Court. That was a huge win and it became clear that the newspaper can never win this case against our claims.”
In the defamatory article published on 14 July 2019, Mail on Sunday had alleged that PM Shehbaz and Yousaf stole money from the UK's aid to Pakistan through the Department for International Fund (DfID).
The DfID immediately issued a rebuttal saying that its funds were audited and not corrupted in Pakistan. Daily Mail had falsely alleged that Yousaf made money through Naveed, who was Finance Director of ERRA from February 2009 to March 2013, and also alleged that he had links him with the alleged money-laundering of the Sharif family via his marriage to PM Shehbaz's daughter Rabia Sharif.
The paper had also alleged that Naveed stole ERRA’s funds which were given after the 8 October 2005 earthquake that struck Kashmir and killed nearly 90,000 people.
Daily Mail had falsely alleged that Yousaf, who owned Ali & Company and Ali & Fatima Developers, must have known by July 2011 that Naveed was “embezzling funds from ERRA, a discovery which would have been confirmed by the extensive property acquisitions which Mr Naveed had begun to make and which far exceeded any legitimate source of income (including his then-salary as Director of Finance at ERRA). He persuaded Mr Naveed to purchase three large units at the rate of PKR4,500 per square foot in the Ali Trade Centre development project and then entered into an arrangement with Mr Naveed by which Mr Naveed agreed to embezzle further public funds from ERRA for the joint benefit”.
When it came to submitting the actual evidence of corruption or any proof that Yousaf knew as alleged by the paper, the lawyers of Daily Mail confirmed they had no actual evidence and started to make offers of apology and retraction.
Discussing the emotional and social toll on himself and his family, Yousaf said the false allegations by Daily Mail were very hurtful and put his whole family through trauma and torture.
“Imagine being under suspicion of corruption when you know that you have done no corruption and have done nothing wrong. Allah is my witness that I have never been involved in corruption. Imran Khan used the state of Pakistan for four years to find something, whatever possible, just anything against Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif and their families but found zero evidence of corruption and couldn’t prove anything in the fabricated cases. These cases started much before the PTI came into power and PTI couldn’t find anything and ended up making fake cases.”
After the news made headlines in Pakistan that Daily Mail had deleted the defamatory article and apologised to PM Shehbaz Sharif and it was revealed that Yousaf’s lawyer was Waheed Mian, the senior leadership of PTI moved to remove him from the post of deputy secretary of PTI Office of International Chapters (OIC), on the grounds that Sharif’s win from Daily Mail had damaged PTI’s narrative.
Yousaf said he thanked Waheed Mian for standing by him throughout and doing a professional job on his case, at the cost of his politics.