Pakistan’s SC constitutes JIT to probe Nawaz Sharif in Panama Papers case

Pakistan: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday set up a high-level six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his sons’ alleged corruption in the Panama Papers case.

A three-member panel of judges reviewed the names submitted by various departments that had been ordered to do so by the apex court’s April 20 verdict in the case. The JIT is bound to complete the probe in 60 days unless it is granted additional time.

The court appointed Additional Director Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Wajid Zia as the head of the JIT. Other members comprising the JIT were Brigadier Kamran Khurshid from Military Intelligence, Amer Aziz from the State Bank of Pakistan, Bilal Rasool, an executive director at the Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Irfan Naeem Mangi, a Director at the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and Brigadier Muhammad Nauman Saeed from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The Secretariat of the JIT would be housed in the building of the Federal Judicial Academy here and the court also ordered the federal government to provide all necessary funds for the JIT to carry out the investigation, including an initial amount of Rs 20 million.

“The JIT would also be at liberty to utilise the expertise available in their departments and any other department of the federal or provincial governments as and when required by it,” according to the court order. The JIT is empowered to engage and associate with local and foreign experts to facilitate the investigation and for the collection of evidence.

“All the Executive Authorities throughout Pakistan shall act in aid of the JIT,” the court said in its orders. “If and when any person fails or refuses to associate with or appear before the JIT or refuses to cooperate or provide oral or documentary information required by it, the same be immediately brought to the notice of the court for taking appropriate action,” the order stated. The JIT would submit fortnightly progress reports to the court.

After issuing the order to set up the JIT, the court adjourned the proceedings in the case and the next hearing would be held on May 22. Sharif, 67, had got a temporary breather last month from the Supreme Court which said there was “insufficient evidence” to remove him from office but ordered setting up of a JIT to probe the graft allegations against his family.

The high-profile graft case is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s when he twice served as the Prime Minister to purchase assets in London. Information about the assets surfaced when Panama Papers in 2016 showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children. Prime Minister Sharif has denied any wrongdoing since the scandal first surfaced.