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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Letter from Qatari prince has no legal weight: lawyers

Zulqernain Tahir — Updated about an hour LAHORE: Prominent lawyers are of the view that Qatari prince Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani will have to submit ‘required evidence’ and make himself available before the court in the Panama Papers case, otherwise his letter has no legal value at all. “The letter from the Qatari prince in Panama Papers case simply carries no legal weight. He will have to submit the required evidence to the apex court and also make his availability before the court,” eminent lawyer Salman Akram Raja told Dawn here on Sunday. He said the Qatari prince would have to appear before the court in person for cross-examination or a commission (if constituted by the Supreme Court) would have to go to Qatar to record his statement. Read: Revelations made in Qatari letter not a ploy: ministers He said it was the discretion of the court as how it took the letter of the Qatari prince. But, he added, in the eyes of the law “it is just a piece of paper”. Known lawyer and PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan has also declared the Qatari prince’s letter a “useless piece of paper”. “The letter of the Qatari prince is a useless piece of paper till he appears in the court in person and gives statement under oath,” he said. Talking to reporters here on Sunday, Mr Ahsan said if the Qatari prince appeared before the court, he would be “trembling” during cross-examination. “After 10 questions he will start trembling,” he added. Mr Ahsan was of the view that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been in troubled waters as it would not be easy for him to get away with this case. “To me Nawaz Sharif will not find easy escape route regarding his Rs8 billion property,” he said and demanded that Mr Sharif should face the same law which was faced by former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani. “Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf (two former prime ministers of the PPP) had appeared before the court and now Hasan and Hussain (Mr Sharif’s sons) should also appear before the apex court in the Panama Papers case,” he said. Mr Ahsan, who is reportedly being considered by the Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf to plead the Panama Papers case after Hamid Khan dissociated himself from it, denied that he was contacted by the PTI leadership (for taking up the case). “The PTI leadership did not contact me.” However, he added, he would give advice to PTI leaders if they would contact him. Mr Ahsan was in agreement with Hamid Khan over the media’s role in creating a ‘hostile environment’ in this case. “The media has spoiled Hamid Khan’s matter. Not him (Hamid Khan) but the Sharif brothers will have to prove that they had made property through legal means,” he said. The letter of the Qatari prince, who ruled Qatar from 2007 to 2013, states that his father (Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani) had longstanding business relations with Mian Mohammad Sharif (father of Nawaz Sharif) which were coordinated through his eldest brother. “In the year 1980, Mian Sharif expressed his desire to invest a certain amount of money in real estate business of Al Thani family in Qatar. I understood at that time, that an aggregate sum of around Dirhams 12 million was contributed by Mian Sharif, originating from the sale of business in Dubai. Four flats ­— 16, 16A, 17 and 17A Avenfield House, Park Lane, London, were registered under the ownership of two offshore companies, while their bearer share certificates were kept in Qatar. These were purchased from the proceeds of the real estate business. “On account of [the] relationship between the families, Mian Sharif and his family used the properties whilst bearing all expenses relating to the properties, including the ground rent and service charges,” the letter said. The next date of hearing of the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court is Nov 30. Published in Dawn November 21st, 2016

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