Imran denies money laundering in SKMT funds

PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday denied sending funds abroad via money laundering as he testified before a court in a Rs10 billion damages suit he had filed against Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif over allegations of embezzling Shaukat Khanam Memorial Trust’s (SKMT) funds

The former premier cautioned about the dangers of misreporting when it comes to SKMT, considering the magnitude of services the charitable institution was providing to the people

In 2012, Imran filed a defamation lawsuit against Asif for making allegations of non-transparency, money laundering, and suspicious investments in the SKMT funds

Imran appeared at the Islamabad district and sessions court via video link from his Lahore’s Zaman Park residence as additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) Umeed Ali Baloch heard the matter

Asif's lawyer Haider Rasool Mirza appeared before the court while Imran was represented by Noman Farooqui

The former premier was cross-examined about investment in a private housing project using funds from the hospital trust

In response to questions, the PTI chief said that board meeting minutes of investments were not filed with the defamation claim, but there was talk about the investment in the board meetings

He added that when a legal notice was sent to Asif, the investment amount was not returned till that time

The amount of three million dollars remained with HBG Group for seven years, and the chief executive officer of HBG Group was Imtiaz Haidari, he said and added that Hydari was a member of the Shaukat Khanum Investment Committee which decided to invest $3 million

Read: Imran admits to diverting SKMT funds He denied that the investment had been made to benefit the CEO and stressed that it was not correct to call this $3 million investment payback for Hydari

Asif's lawyer asked Imran whether Hydari had been a donor of the PTI, to which the former premier first said that Hydari was a donor but later added that he was not sure

In response to further questions, Imran said that many donors of SKMCH had also happened to be donors of the PTI at different times

Asif's lawyer asked whether Shaikh Saleem Al-Mashani was mentioned in his legal notice and whether he knew him

In response, Imran first said that he did not know and later added that he did not remember

Asif's lawyer said that he has to tell that because he has mentioned it in his claim

Imran then answered further questions and said that he does not know the name of this Oman project, wherein $3 million were invested

He added that the endowment board was independent and they made investments that doubled their funds, and it was not necessary for him to know about the endowment board's investments

“Even today the endowment board/committee works independently

I do not remember when the endowment board was formed

The idea was from the 90s,” he remarked

Imran said that he did not remember the investment committee's decision to invest $3 million dollars before the endowment fund board

The PTI chief’s lawyer raised the objection before the court that it was reported in the media during the previous hearing, although it was already known to the public

Imran highlighted the dangers of misreporting since SKMCH was a huge charity organisation and it would suffer due to the reports

"I will also put before the court that they should also look at this false reporting,” Imran’s lawyer said

The PTI chief said in response to various questions that the two companies they invested in were offshore companies “I am not aware that they were benami companies, the investment was on the basis that benefit would be to Shaukat Khanum,” he said

“I do not agree that the benefit would have been more if the $3 million had been placed on a fixed term in 2008, Shaukat Khanum has a budget of Rs18 billion, its internal and external audit is conducted,” he added

He also said that it is not the job of the board chairman to see them, the chairman looks at the policy matters, and no legal notice has been sent to any print and electronic media house regarding this

Media reports Asif's lawyer also questioned about a Financial Times story published last year which had claimed how funds collected through charity cricket matches were used for the rise of PTI

Referring to the report, Imran said the allegations were against Arif Naqvi and not him

He added that the Shaukat Khanum Hospital receives Rs9 billion ($57 million) in donations annually and it is not possible to know who gave what

Imran also said that there was no mechanism to verify whether donations received by the PTI and the hospital are from legitimate sources and that he did not have an investigative mechanism

“I know an article was written in the Financial Times on 28th July 2022, I participated in the Wootton T20 charity match under the Wootton Cricket Club, and the amount of $2

12 million which was collected from the charity match was not deposited in the PTI fund

I had a fundraiser,” the former premier said

“I had participated in the Wootton T20 Cup for donations,” Imran said during the cross-examination

“The dinner was not organised by the Wootton Cricket Club

I just know that Arif Naqvi organised a dinner for the PTI

“Wootton Cricket Club did not arrange the dinner, the charity match and dinner were arranged by Arif Naqvi, the news of the funds transfer from Wootton Cricket was not sent to the Financial Times because it was against Arif Naqvi and not me

” He mentioned that recently, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) accused him of corruption and corrupt practices in the Toshakhana and prohibited funding cases

“The fact is that Toshakhana is also legal

Prohibited funding is also legal

Shaukat Khanum's annual donation is Rs9 billion and there is no mechanism to determine whether it is from a legitimate source or not,” he said

Asif's lawyer said that SKMCH is a noble organization and they do not want to make it a part of a political confrontation

“You have taken this matter forward by filing a claim, we are talking about Imran Khan as an individual, we are not against the institution,” he said

Imran said that “if Asif had any morals and was not taking political advantage, I would not have filed the suit”

“I told Haider (Asif's lawyer) that this case was nothing

You have made this case on the basis of skills,” he added

“I am Pakistan's biggest fundraiser, raising money for Shaukat Khanum, it was important to challenge the allegations they made against me

” “The reason behind this is that five institutions are dependent on me, if you read Khawaja Asif's statement, he hit charity directly,” he further said

“This is not a seth’s party that Imran Khan should do everything

” The court adjourned further hearing of the case till March 4

Date:13-Feb-2023 Reference:View Original Link