LONDON: The British Virgin Islands government has turned down National Accountability Bureau’s request for help in probing alleged offences committed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his children, Maryam, Hasan and Hussain Nawaz, – dealing a blow to the efforts by the anti-graft body to find evidence against Sharifs from outside of Pakistan.
The NAB official passed to this correspondent a copy of the letter sent earlier this week by office of the BVI’s Attorney General Chambers to the NAB, making it clear that the BVI authorities will only help if proper information is provided which conforms to the relevant laws of the country – suggesting that the fishing exercise to obtain desired information will not yield results. The latest letter has been written by the Crown’s Counsel Sarah Potter-Washington.
The letter sent by the BVI government to the NAB confirms that Pakistani authorities asked the BVI officials to provide “tax records, bank account information and company records in respect of Mr Nawaz Sharif, his family and named companies.”
The NAB letter sought help of the BVI concerning “criminal investigations into the offence of Corruption and Corrupt Practices” seeking records of Nawaz Sharif and his children.
The BVI authorities wrote in their reply to the NAB that the request, as set out, is not in conformity with the laws of the Virgin Islands. The BVI response explained that the summary of the facts does not provide any background information, showing nexus between the individuals and companies mentioned, and the alleged offence.
“The request must prima facie show now the offence of corruption or corrupt practices may have been committed by the named individuals and companies,” it says.
The BVI letter explained to the NAB that its request “doesn’t provide the relevant bank information such as the bank institution and account number of the persons or companies, which are to be investigated and sought information about.”
The letter stressed that since the basic requirements were not met, it was unable in such “circumstances” to render any assistance in the execution of NAB’s request.
The letter noted for the NAB: “You may upon rectification of the mentioned anomalies; that is, rectification of the reasons why the request is not compliant with the Laws of the Virgin Islands, submit another request for further consideration.
In July last year, the BVI authorities declined to assist the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in probing alleged offences committed by the two offshore companies, Nescoll Limited and Nielson Enterprises, that control the Sharifs’ four Avenfield apartments.
At that time the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) was filed by the JIT’s head, Wajid Zia, seeking assistance in the confirmation, verification and certification of certain documents. The BVI law officer had said that though the JIT had sought MLA assistance, it did not conform to the laws of the territory.
Then as now, Pakistani investigators didn’t provide any background information, showing a nexus between these companies and any alleged offence, and the individuals.
On both occasions, the BVI authorities said that the MLA filed by the NAB didn’t show how these companies may have been involved in the inferred offence of corruption or corrupt practices, and the request must show, prima facie, how the offence was committed and must also provide a copy, and not a quote, of the law relative to the offence committed.
The case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the former PM Nawaz Sharif began on the basis of Panama Papers leaks, but no evidence against him was found linking him to the offshore companies and he was disqualified on Iqama – the ‘receivable’ definition of salary that Sharif never withdrew from his son’s account, but which was determined as his asset.
The former premier has maintained that he had nothing to do with Panama leaks and that he has been ousted in a nefarious plot.