Imran Khan is back in the news, not for his long march, but for the alleged sale of a multi-million dollar watch that was gifted to him when he was Prime Minister by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.
A Dubai-based businessman, Umar Farooq Zahoor, has claimed that he has evidence to prove that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf administration has sold the Graff wristwatch for $2 million in 2019.
This goes back to the Toshkhana controversy, which resulted in Khan’s disqualification from contesting elections after he was charged with making ‘false statements and erroneous declarations’.
In an interview with Geo News, the businessman claimed that in March 2019, former accountability minister, Mirza Shahzad Akbar had inquired if he was interested in buying the watch. He then reportedly asked him to reach out to Farah Gogi, a close aide of Imran’s wife Bushra Bibi Khan, as she needed help and didn’t have any asset buyers.
According to Zahoor, Akbar reportedly displayed the watch and vouched for its authenticity. He also accused the former minister of blackmailing him. As the story started to gain traction in local and international media, Akbar denied these allegations vehemently on Twitter.
The presents include a men’s diamond ring, a diamond MasterGraff Tourbillon Minute Repeater with a Mecca map dial, diamond cufflinks, a VVS rose gold pen set with pave diamonds, and an enamel Mecca map.
What was the Toshakhana controversy?
In October, the Election Commission disqualified Imran Khan from contesting elections for not declaring his assets properly. The watch was a gift from the Saudi crown prince, according to Attaullah Tarar, the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant, and Imran Khan sold it in a “criminal way” without realising the “importance and uniqueness of the gift.” He added that the watch has a market value of $2 million and was not deposited in the Toshakhana before being evaluated for market value.
According to the Pakistani law, overseas presents need to be deposited in the Toshakhana or treasury for valuation before allowing a recipient to keep it. Officials in the government are required to report any gifts they receive, but they have a threshold below which they don’t have to disclose the full value. Larger gifts are sent to Toshakhana, although the recipient may be able to buy them back at a discount of up to 50 per cent.
Khan and his wife are said to have retained all 112 gifts from the Toshakhana of the Pakistan Government for a payment of less than 40 million Pakistani rupees.
In accordance with the Pakistani Election Commission’s directive, Tarar implied that Khan will face criminal charges in the Toshakhana matter and that the government would also issue a red warrant for Farah Gogi’s return from the United Arab Emirates.
The complaint to the commission was first brought when Khan was still in office by the Pakistan Democratic Movement, a coalition whose members now make up the government.
Shahzad Akbar claimed that he had never spoken to or met Zahoor. He said that Zahoor had filed a complaint against him at the Secretariat Police Station in Islamabad and was “ Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) sought man.
Taking to Twitter after the incident, he retorted to Zahoor’s claims saying, “Enough is enough. Yesterday Geo & Khanzada supported by Handlers slandered me through a baseless story cooked up by a known fraudster & internationally wanted criminal. I have spoken to my lawyers & I plan to sue Geo, Khanzada & the fraudster not only in Pak but also in UK & UAE.”
PTI minister Fawad Chaudhry also claimed that Imran Khan had bought the watch legally. The party has also made a number of accusations against Zahoor, including that the current administration was behind him because of images of him with a few retired generals.
Senior PTI leader also quashed the claims and charged GeoTV with ‘character assassination” of Imran Khan in his tweet.
(Edited by Tarannum Khan)