Ferozwala Files: Imran remained untouched despite repeated misdeclaration of assets
– Prime Minister Imran Khan’s father Ikramullah Khan Niazi was given a power of attorney (PoA) of 500 kanal Ferozwala land (in suburbs of Lahore city) by one Nighat Iram in March 1996 without mention of any consideration of money
– Using PoA, Father Ikramullah sold the land to his son, Imran and four daughters Aleema Khan, Dr Uzma Khan, Noreen Niazi and Rubeena Khan in 2004 for consideration of Rs7 million and the ‘intiqaal’ of land (transfer of property in records of Revenue Department) in the name of children was completed in the same year
– Even though the land was duly transferred in the name of PM Khan, he didn’t declare it to the tax authorities in Pakistan in 2005 and even hid it from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in his annual statement of assets and liabilities for the same year. He was an MNA in the 2002-07 national assembly.
– PM Khan continued to hide the property ownership from the tax authorities in the following years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and from the ECP in the years 2006 and 2007 which according to experts is a clear case of non-declaration.
– Ikramullah Niazi died on March 19, 2008, and PM Khan finally declared the Ferozwala lands in his wealth statement for the year 2010 as “inheritance”. Legal experts say that land purchased by an individual can never be declared as “inheritance” and it’s a clear case of misdeclaration of an asset.
– Supreme Court cleared PM Khan in the case of non-declaration of offshore company case on the basis that the “Niazi Services Limited (NSL)” was being used only for purposes of management of London apartment which he had declared under the amnesty scheme. Bank statements of accounts of NSL, not examined by the apex court, however, establish beyond an iota of doubt that the offshore company was used for purposes other than the management of London apartment and hence declaring it was mandatory.
– PM Khan also hid his Peshawar plot from tax authorities for several years and ultimately announced to donate it to his charity’s project in Peshawar. This plot was never declared.
– PM Khan rushed to declare a precious Tosha Khana item worth Rs11.68 million in his tax returns for the year 2021 at a time when his government was pleading before the Islamabad High Court that the Cabinet Division should not be forced by the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) to disclose the details of Tosha Khan items as it can hurt Pakistan’s relations with foreign countries.
Back in 2004, Imran Khan and his four sisters bought an immense parcel of land in the suburbs of Lahore from their father, Ikramullah Khan Niazi, for 7 million Pakistani rupees.
Nighat Erum, the widow of former Punjab Police chief Shah Nazir Alam, and stepmother to retired general Shah Arif Alam and two other sons, gave Ikramullah Khan Niazi power of attorney (PoA) to sell the 500 kanal land on her behalf in 1996.
The 2004 sale of land was unusual because people with the power of attorney usually don’t sell the land to close relatives. After its purchase, Imran Khan hid this property from the tax authorities in Pakistan for five years.
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The prime minister finally declared the land as an “inheritance” and declared its value as “zero” despite the fact that the land was not inherited and was purchased by him and his siblings.
This land deal was one of the several instances when Prime Minister Khan either hid or misdeclared his assets; according to a detailed examination by Fact Focus of his property records, tax returns, and election declarations.
Besides the Ferozwala land deal, documents show that Khan hid a plot of land he owned in Peshawar, hid ownership of multiple land plots in Lahore, misdeclared a precious Tosha Khana item and held bank accounts maintained in the name of his offshore company, for purposes other than the purchase of his London apartment.
Questions sent to the Prime Minister Imran Khan and his spokesmen by Fact Focus were not responded to.
In Pakistan, there are multiple examples of elected officials being disqualified by the superior courts due to a minor misdeclaration of assets.
Among the recent examples of disqualification on the basis of any misstatement, are those of Justice (R) Iftikhar Cheema who was disqualified because he couldn’t declare a property of his wife which was transferred in her name as inheritance a few days earlier. Justice Cheema who is considered as a person of impeccable integrity was unaware of this transfer of land in his wife’s name. The judge mentioned the same while disqualifying him. The second example is that of a Pakistani Senator Faisal Vawda who was disqualified for a misstatement in his election nomination papers which he had submitted for a previous election.
The Ferozwala Land Mystery
The prime land measuring 500 kanal and 9 marlas is located in Mauza Rangiyan, Phaliyan, Ferozewala, District Sheikhupura.
Under the Pakistani Legal system, not declaring any of the assets in one’s name amounts to a non-declaration, and declaring it wrongly is a misdeclaration. PM Khan did both. He along with his four sisters purchased the land on October 13, 2004.
The declaration of the land was mandatory as not only the sale agreement was executed but the land was also transferred in the name of PM Khan and his sisters on October 15, 2004 in the records of the Revenue Department.
Nighat Iram was the owner of the property and PM Khan’s father only had the power of attorney; the land could not have legally been ‘gifted’ to Khan and his sisters. His father Ikramullah Niazi only had the authority to sell the land; he did not have the ownership rights to bequeath it. The property document called ‘jama-bandi’, which is the land’s provenance document, also proves this fact. This document also shows that the land remained in the name of Nighat Iram until 2004 and was transferred in the name of Khan and his sisters after they purchased it the same year.
Although he purchased the property in October 2004, his Election Declaration documents reveal that he hadn’t declared this land in his statement of assets and liabilities which he submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the fiscal years 2005 (from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005), 2006 and 2007. Similarly, Khan hid this prime land from the tax authorities in all these years, a perusal of the record of his income tax returns for the years 2005 to 2009 shows. PM Khan’s sisters also concealed this land’s ownership from tax authorities in the years from 2005 to 2008 even though they had purchased the land and it was transferred in their names.
PM Khan’s father Ikramullah Khan Niazi passed away on March 19, 2008. Finally, in 2009, Aleema Khan, sister of Prime Minister Khan, declared this property in her wealth statements but misdeclared it in her wealth statements as inherited (not purchased) with a listed value of “zero”. Even though she along with her siblings had purchased this property after paying Rs7 million. This property was purchased and not inherited. Then, in 2010, PM Khan declared the Ferozewala property but as an “inheritance” and not as a purchased property. PM Khan who had paid money to purchase this land declared the value of the land “zero”.
After almost 15 years of consistent misdeclaration, Khan and his four sisters finally sold this land to one Mateen Ahmed Bhulla in October 2019 for a value of Rs350 million Pakistani Rupees, as shown in the property document. In fact, PM Khan started declaring receiving advance money for the proposed agreement to sell the Ferozewala lands in 2017. The property was at the time a compact piece of land situated at the same place.
Khan, who as prime minister often voiced support for tax reforms, and his sisters sold this one piece of land through 80 different ‘registries’ , with each ‘registry’ having a value of less than Rs4 million. There were a total of 80 ‘intiqaal’ (transfer of property document).
This is a practice done by purchasers of land to avoid taxes that become applicable if the price of land is above a certain amount (Rs4 million in this case). So by selling the same land 80 times to the same buyer within a time frame of two months, PM Khan and his sisters facilitated the buyer to avoid applicable taxes. Those selling a property are not subjected to any tax if it was purchased three years before the day it is sold.
Generally, both seller and purchaser agree on this kind of arrangement and fix the price of the property accordingly so both can benefit. But with this practice, both parties deprive the state of legitimate and necessary taxes.
When asked if a person who had purchased land that was transferred in their name, after he purchased it through a properly executed and registered sale agreement, was bound to declare this land in his tax returns and wealth statements, Advocate Ikraam Chaudhary, a Supreme Court senior advocate based in Islamabad’s response was, “Absolutely, one must declare a land once it is transferred in one’s name in the tax returns to be submitted for the corresponding financial year.”
Responding to the same question, a senior advocate in Islamabad Amir Abdullah Abbasi said, “Yes, one must declare a land once it is transferred in one’s name. However, only a tax expert can explain the details of penalties which can be imposed in case someone fails to declare a property despite purchasing it.”
Chaudhary and Abbasi were also asked this question: If a person who possesses a power of attorney of land sells that land to his son in return for money, can the son declare that land an inheritance? Both Chaudhary and Abbasi said that a son cannot declare the land as an inheritance in any case, because he has purchased the land and the land title is in his name. Both answered that “it will be a misdeclaration.”
The Peshawar Property Gift
In 2005, Imran Khan received a plot of land in the city of Peshawar as a gift. Khan admitted to receiving this plot many times and said it was worth 50 million Pakistani rupees. However, tax records show that Khan had not declared this plot in his tax returns in 2006. He continued to hide this asset for 10 years until 2015, when he donated it to his own charity. Khan was a member of the National Assembly in 2005. He also did not declare this plot in his statement of assets and liabilities which was submitted to the Election Commission every year. In a speech during a ceremony on December 28, 2015, in Peshawar, Khan admitted owning this plot and stated that he has donated this plot to his charity.
Misstating Land Ownership to Get Land Gift in Lahore
In 1987, as Captain of the national cricket team, Khan made history as the team managed to defeat India in a test series held in their own home country Following this feat, the Punjab government announced that they were giving residential plots to the players of the winning team as a reward for their success. Even players like Khan who got no wickets were given land.
A basic condition to accept any such plot was to give an affidavit on oath that the recipient of the plot doesn’t already own any house or a residential plot. On April 2, 1987, Khan wrote an application to the then Chief Minister of Punjab requesting an allotment of a residential plot to him. Khan also annexed an affidavit with the oath stating that he had no house or a residential plot anywhere in Punjab. On April 4, 1987, the Chief Minister approved the allotment of a plot for him in Faisal Town, Lahore.
At the time of giving the affidavit, Khan wasn’t only living in his own family home but also owned more than one plot in the Westwood Housing Society in Lahore.
The Westwood Housing Society was developed by Ikramullah Khan Niazi, Imran Khan’s father, in the mid-eighties and Khan took ownership of plots in this housing colony.
Offshore Company and London Apartment:
Documents establish that PM Khan set up an offshore company in Jersey Island named “Niazi Services Limited” on May 10, 1983. Over the years, various bank accounts affiliated with this offshore company were opened in different banks including Barclays Bank by him in currencies United States Dollar, British Pound, and Euro. This offshore company purchased an apartment in London on May 3, 1984, for GBP117,000. This flat address was Flat 2, 165 Draycott Avenue, London (South Kensington).
PM Khan never declared his offshore company in his tax returns or to the Election Commission of Pakistan from the year of the company’s inception in 1983 to the year of its revocation in 2015.
PM Khan hid his apartment in London from the tax authorities from the year of its purchase in 1984 until the year 2000 when he declared this apartment (not the offshore company) to the tax authorities in Pakistan under a money whitening scheme called the ‘Tax Amnesty Scheme 2000’ (TAS 2000) introduced by the military dictator General Pervez Musharraf. According to multiple media reports, a motive for this was PM Khan’s desire in the early 2000’s to be considered as a candidate for the office of Prime Minister in the 2002 general elections during the military regime of General Musharraf. Plans to engineer the 2002 election were being devised in advance and had been reported in the media many times. In Pakistan any candidate vying for the position of Prime Minister comes under intense scrutiny and can be removed from office for any non-declaration of assets. PM Khan wasn’t made Prime Minister by the military at that time.
Points not brought to the Supreme Court’s notice beyond Hanif Abbasi Case – (Imran’s offshore company and London Apartment):
In the Hanif Abbasi case about PM Khan’s mis-declarations, it was decided by the Supreme Court. as per Justice Saqib Nisar’s judgment, on December 15, 2017, that PM Khan had been cleared of the charge of concealing his London apartment from the tax authorities for sixteen years since he had ultimately declared it under a tax amnesty scheme.
The Supreme Court also stated that the tax amnesty scheme was introduced under a legal framework, and it gave absolute immunity to all transactions related to the declared property or asset. Therefore, the apex court further stated that because the offshore company Niazi Services Limited was only used for the sole purpose of the management of the apartment in London, which had been declared under the Tax Amnesty Scheme of 2000, PM Khan was not bound to declare the offshore company.
However, the Supreme Court could not examine the bank statements of all the bank accounts of Niazi Services Limited because the bank statements provided only covered a few years. The statements of more than 15 years were not provided to the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, the bank statements of Niazi Services Limited available in the records of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and shared by PM Khan himself on his verified Twitter account in order to prove a different point, established, beyond an iota of doubt that the offshore company and its bank accounts were being used for purposes other than the management of the London apartment. In July 2017, in his bid to prove that he had sufficient money to buy his London apartment in the early 1980s, PM Khan shared images of bank cheques and deposit slips on his verified Twitter accounts.
This creates a liability on PM Khan for declaration.
Bank Accounts of Niazi Services Limited Used for purposes other than the management of London Apartment:
Different transactions conducted according to the bank statements available for 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989 for the bank accounts of Niazi Services Limited show that they were not just restricted to the management of the London apartment of PM Khan. NSL’s bank accounts were also being used for other purposes.
Going with the narrative or defending the legal point – what confused PM Khan?
PM Khan apparently got confused about the real issue. He tried to build a narrative in the public that his political opponents did not have old banking documents to establish a source of legal income while he had all his records. He simply ignored the fact that the legal point being discussed in the court was entirely different. This legal point was not about his capacity to afford the purchase of his London apartment but about hiding his offshore company and its bank accounts from the tax authorities in Pakistan.
Justice Saqib Nisar cleared PM Khan declaring that the offshore company was only used for the management of the apartment in London without going into the details of the transactions of bank accounts associated with the Niazi Services Limited. Many facts could not be reported at that time because of the strict censorship imposed on print and electronic media.
Fact Focus investigations based on these bank documents and the records of the case in the Supreme Court establish that credit transactions worth more than GBP100,000 took place in the bank accounts of Niazi Services Limited which were not at all linked to the apartment in London. At least this much money was over and above the amount required for the down payment and mortgage payments of the apartment in London, as the documents show.
The critical point here is that transactions of more than GBP100,000 are only for the five years for which bank statements were made available to the court. Bank statements for fifteen years (1985, 1986 & from 1990 to 2002) were not at all provided. The only available statements shared on his Twitter account by PM Khan prove the use of the offshore company and its bank accounts for purposes other than the management of the apartment in London. The management of the apartment one was just one of multiple financial purposes that his offshore company and its accounts were used for. This company and its bank accounts were never declared in Pakistan.
Details of London Apartment purchase and Bank Transaction:
As per documents submitted under oath by PM Khan in Supreme Court,
Niazi Services Limited maintained seven bank accounts in three currencies Euro, US Dollar, and GBP in four banks; National Westminster Bank, Barclay Bank, Lloyds Bank, and Royal Trust Bank.
However, the total number of bank accounts Niazi Services Limited maintained before the selling of the apartment in 2003 cannot be confirmed because PM Khan only shared the records of the bank statements of these four banks and that too for five years out of the twenty-year period.
Expenses incurred by PM Khan on the apartment in London:
According to PM Khan’s statement before the Supreme Court about the purchase of the London apartment, the total purchase price was GBP117,500 while the stamp duty was GBP1,175 and legal and other expenses were GBP2,075.
PM Khan, according to his statements, paid GBP60,750 in 1984 from his income, and the remaining funds of GBP60,000 were raised through a mortgage from Royal Trust Bank.
Mr.PM Khan paid back the mortgage amount in different installments and paid an amount of GBP44,024 in interest over a 68-month period. This made the total amount paid by him for the apartment GBP161,524.
Monies credited in bank accounts of Niazi Services Limited:
In 1983, two debit and one credit transactions were mentioned in the documents. These transactions were made from the Lloyds Bank account of NSL. An amount of GBP 17,282 was credited to this account.
In 1984, one debit and one credit transaction took place in the Lloyds bank accounts of NSL according to the provided documents. An amount of GBP75,000 was credited.
For 1985 and 1986 these transaction details are not available.
In 1987, in two different bank accounts of NSL in Royal Trust bank more than two dozen transactions took place. An amount of GBP57,704 was shown as “brought forward” in one of the accounts. This clearly shows that this account was operational during the previous year i.e. 1986.
In 1988, two bank accounts of NSL in Royal Trust Bank remained operational with one account having a balance of more than GBP50,000.
The same year NSL maintained another account in Barclays Bank in which one debit and five credit transactions took place. A total amount of GBP12,792.89 was credited.
In one of his statements, PM Khan mentioned that he earned GBP190,000 in Jan 1988.
In 1989, both the bank accounts of NSL in Royal Trust Bank remained operational.
Though the complete statements of Barclays bank couldn’t be found, based on five transactions disclosed by the Prime Minister, an amount of GBP49,081 was credited to this account.
As a result of two transactions, an amount of GBP100,800 was credited to another NSL’s account in National Westminster Bank.
Starting from 1984 till 1989 PM Khan had spent GBP161,524 on the apartment in London. This includes the down payment, the mortgages and the interest as well as all other expenses pertaining to the apartment. . While the amount which was earned by him or was credited in the bank accounts of NSL was more than GBP290,000. Hence, despite the non-provision of complete bank records for the years 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, and 1989 and the non-provision of any record for the years 1985, 1986, 1990 – 2002 (15 years). The only available documents and bank statement of five years prove beyond an iota of doubt that Niazi Services Limited was being for the purposes other than the management of the apartment in London since the beginning. Niazi Services Limited was operating as a separate entity independent of the London apartment and PM Khan was under a legal obligation to declare it.
It should be noted that PM Khan continued to receive money in the Barclays bank accounts associated with Niazi Services Limited even after the selling of the apartment in 2003. In addition to receiving GBP690,307 on April 14, 2003, as proceeds from the sale of the apartment in London, different transactions totaling EUR 84,047 were credited to NSL’s account at Barclays from 2006 to 2010. This money was coming from a Dutch citizen H Van Dar Loo, a tenant of the apartment in London, as a result of a court proceeding. PM Khan’s attorney informed the court that these amounts received from the former tenant of the London apartment were reflected in the annual returns of PM Khan for the corresponding years by converting them into rupees. PM Khan’s tax records for these years examined by Fact Focus creates an interesting situation. PM Khan was declaring a considerable amount (from Rs15 million to Rs30 million) as “cash in hand” even before 2007. It is also interesting that PM Khan was always declaring foreign currency possessed by him in US Dollars, Euros, and Pound Sterling.
Hiding Tosha-Khana precious item
In November 2020, after news spread about retaining (and the subsequent selling) of some precious ‘Tosha-Khana’ gifts given to Pakistan by dignitaries of friendly foreign states by top government functionaries, a citizen Rana Abrar Khalid filed a Right-to-Information application to the Cabinet Division requiring details of the ‘Tosha-Khana’ gifts retained by the PM Khan and their value. However, the Cabinet Division refused to provide details. Consequently, Khalid petitioned the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC).
On January 21, 2021, PIC ordered the Cabinet Division to provide the details of the ‘Tosha- Khana’ gifts retained by PM Khan along with their value to the petitioner and also publish the same on the Division’s website.
It is important to note that when PIC sought comments from the Cabinet Division, the latter refused to provide the information without disclosing any reason. Under the law, a government department is bound to provide detailed reasons to the PIC in case it decides not to provide any information in response to an RTI application.
Fact Focus investigations reveal that when the Tosha-Khana scandal became the talk of the town, PM Khan submitted his annual returns for the tax year 2020-21 on September 30, 2021, much earlier than the dates of submission of his returns in previous years, and declared a “precious Tosha-Khana item” by mentioning an amount of Rs11.68 million.
PM Khan avoided providing details of this precious item which is otherwise mandatory under the tax laws of the country.
Tosha-Khana gifts can be retained by government officials under a policy notified by the Cabinet Division. Only the President and the Prime Minister can receive such gifts from foreign dignitaries or during their foreign visits. Other government officials, if forced to accept gifts, must immediately deposit them in the Tosha-Khana. PM Khan’s government introduced a new policy to retain Tosha-Khana gifts on December 18, 2018. In fact, this policy was better than the previous policies regarding this subject. According to this policy, gifts having a value less than Rs30,000 can be kept by the recipient without paying any money. The gifts having a value of more than Rs.30,000 can be retained by the recipient on payment of 50% of the value exceeding the basic exemption of Rs.30,000. According to the mechanism defined by the policy for the determination of the value of a Tosha-Khana gift, the cabinet division gets the value assessed from the Federal Bureau of Revenue’s (FBR) experts as well as from private appraisers, borne on its approved panel.
This explanation shows that the precious gift retained by PM Khan and declared in haste after it became scandalous in the media had a cabinet division’s assessed value of Rs23.39 million (11.69 x 2 = 23.36 and Rs23.36 million + Rs30,000 = Rs23.39 million).
Only ten days earlier to the hasty submission of his tax returns on Sep 10, 2021 (In 2017, PM Khan filed his tax returns on Nov 15, in 2018 he did so on Dec 17, in 2019 he filed his returns on Dec 9 and in 2020 he did so on Dec 08). PM Khan’s government had appealed before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) challenging the PIC order to release details of the Tosha-Khana gifts retained by him.
The Islamabad High Court had advised PM Khan’s government to reconsider its decision to not share information about gifts received from foreign Heads of States and other dignitaries.
“The government should not be ashamed of making such details public,” Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb of IHC told the government during an October 13, 2021 hearing.
Though the case is still pending with the IHC, the court hasn’t issued a stay order which means the PIC order is still in place and PM Khan’s government is violating the PIC order by not releasing the details.
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