Why Jemima Khan entered into a ‘benami transaction’ with Imran -by Umar Cheema

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan who announced to quit politics in case any ‘benami transaction’ (nameless transaction) was established against him is now caught in a dilemma as his ex-wife, Jemima Khan, has hinted that the land deal in Bani Gala, Islamabad in 2004, was a ‘benami transaction’.

Not only Imran had opposed such transactions, he has been fiercely advocating a ban on them and pledged last year to do so if PTI is voted to power.

But while Jemima has mentioned a benami transaction in a document, lawyers are divided on whether the power of attorney she gave to a PTI leader fits the definition of a “nameless” transaction. The PTI spokesman has denied this on behalf of the party chairman and Imran’s legal consultant offered no comment, but Jemima’s document obtained by The News offers detail contrary to the party position in this regard.

In the sworn-affidavit, Jemima Khan says Bani Gala land measuring 300 kanals and five marlas was transferred in her name by ex-husband Imran Khan as ‘benami transaction.’

In Para-3 of her general power of attorney dated September 21, 2004, Jemima Khan had stated: “The land was transferred in my name through mutations No. 7056, 7225, 7361, 7538, by my ex-husband Mr Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi as a “benami transaction.” After the separation/divorce between me and Mr Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, I do not intend to keep the land with me.” In the entire affidavit, no amount of money regarding this transaction has been mentioned.

When The News contacted noted lawyer Abid Hasan Manto for comments, he said if something was put on record through a power of attorney, it should be taken as a fact. “When there is a power of attorney and signature of the person concerned, it is prima facie a fact.”

Another leading lawyer Athar Minallah says by declaring that it was ‘benami transaction’, Jemima Khan has denied Imran Khan’s claim reported in the media that he borrowed money from her for purchasing the land and returned it on selling his flat in London.

“She has put him in an awkward position by stating this. The usage of ‘benami transaction’ in power of attorney (a legal document), indicates that Imran Khan paid from his own pocket but chose to register the land in his wife’s name (and it didn’t appear in his tax return details where he could have been questioned about the source of money),” Athar said.

“Also, declaring ‘benami transaction’ means that she was transferring back the property to the real owner without claiming any money (since she was not the real owner),” the leading lawyer said and added: “Once transferred back in Imran Khan’s name, it is not benami. But it was when he transferred it in Jemima Khan’s name.”

Through this power of attorney, Jemima nominated Saifullah Sarwar Khan Niazi, now PTI’s additional secretary general, as her representative in Pakistan during the course of transferring back this land to Imran Khan. Since Jemima was unable to come to Pakistan, according to her affidavit, she had stated: “I do hereby appoint Mr. Saifullah Sarwar Khan Niazi son of Imran Ahsan Khan Niazi…to appear before the Revenue Office/Registrar and get the land transferred…”

As The News approached Saifullah Niazi for comments he neither denied nor confirmed, saying it was difficult to remember something that happened long ago. However, he confirmed that the full name appeared in the affidavit is his.

By mentioning ‘benami transaction’, the ex-wife of PTI leader has raised questions about Imran Khan’s claim that he never had any ‘benami transaction’ (nameless deal) in his dealings, private or public.

According to the definition, ‘benami’ is a transaction wherein a person buys a property in the name of another person or gratuitously transfers property to another person without any intention to benefit that other person.

In a ‘benami transaction’ the property is purchased not in the name of the real beneficiary, but someone who is his/her unofficial representative (benamidar). Many politicians and bureaucrats are understood to have purchased lands and kept accounts this way.

For example, Moonis Elahi’s bank accounts/property was in the name of his wife and a servant in the NICL scam so it does not appear in his personal details, as he has to show the source of income and how the assets were amassed.

Legal experts say benami transactions are resorted to by some people either to commit fraud on creditors, to evade taxes and thus defraud the state or to avoid certain political and social risks. It also provides an opportunity for putting black money into more productive use.

In the PTI context, why Jemima used this word remains a mystery. When PTI spokesman Shafqat Mahmood was asked about this document, he responded: “The purchase of land in Bani Gala was initially paid for by his wife Jemima Khan. Imran Khan paid her back after his London flat was sold. The property was in Jemima Khan’s name and after their divorce was gifted back to Imran Khan in 2005 by his ex wife.” “It was not a benami transaction and all relevant taxes were paid. Please contact Yusuf Islam Associates in Lahore who are Mr Khan’s tax advisors if you have further questions,” the PTI leader said. When Yusuf Islam was contacted, he said he was not allowed to disclose property details. Yusuf said the PTI spokesman had already taken up this query with him and that he refused to help.

Source: The News



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