Pakistan Supreme Court orders probe in Panama Papers case, Pak PM Nawaz Sharif under scanner

Pakistan Supreme Court orders probe in Panama Papers case, Pak PM Nawaz Sharif under scanner

At the heart of the matter is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies. In picture: Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. Photograph: (AFP)

Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan Apr 20, 2017, 03.42 PM (IST)

Pakistan Supreme Court today ordered a probe into the Panama Papers case. The court directed a five-member team to be formed to investigate the contents of the Panama Papers.

The joint investigation team(JIT) has been asked to submit the report within two weeks, according to WION sources. The court has directed Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to appear before the investigation team which will look into the controversial Panama Papers. 

Reports said the joint investigation team will consist of members of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI). Even though the Pakistan prime minister was given a reprieve after the Supreme Court ordered an investigation into corruption allegations, but his fate still hangs in balance with the court deciding to form an investigation team.

"A thorough investigation is required," Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said.

According to media reports, three judges said further investigation was needed in the case but two other judges wanted the Pakistan prime minister to be disqualified.

The highly-anticipated decision threatens to plunge Nawaz Sharif's governing party into turmoil ahead of general elections which is due to be held by next year even as security and the economy improve in the militancy-plagued country.

The controversy erupted with the publication of the so-called Panama Papers last year, 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca which documented the offshore dealings of many of the world's rich and powerful.

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Among the global elite implicated were three of Sharif's four children - his daughter and presumptive political heir Maryam, and his sons Hasan and Hussein.

At the heart of the matter is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies.

Sharif's ruling PML-N party insists the wealth was acquired legally through family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.

But lawyers for Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party, argue the paper trail for the funds is non-existent, and say the onus is on Sharif to prove his relatives did not engage in money laundering. 

The case has dominated headlines in Pakistan for the better part of a year. The court has taken such action before holding former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in contempt in 2012 for refusing to re-open corruption investigations into then President Asif Ali Zardari, resulting in his disqualification.

The controversy is the latest to hit Sharif, an industrialist serving his third term as prime minister after the first two terms were interrupted by interventions from the country's powerful military.

Late Wednesday, he detailed his party's infrastructure achievements in televised comments at the inauguration of a power plant, without mentioning the looming verdict.

(WION with Agency inputs)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

A five-member joint investigation team consisting of ISI members is set to probe Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif

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