Rolex to diamonds: What’s landed Pakistan’s Imran Khan a 14-year jail term?

The ex-PM denies he profited from the sale of ‘state gifts’ but prosecution says their value was concealed.

A court in Pakistan has sentenced former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi to 14 years in prison just a week before general elections, for unlawfully buying and selling state gifts.

The former prime minister and his wife were also fined each 787 million rupees ($2.8m) in a case known as the asset concealment case, or Toshakhana case.

The 71-year-old cricketer-turned-leader was jailed for 10 years for leaking state secrets on Tuesday. The former prime minister has said the cases are politically motivated and aimed at keeping him and his party away from the elections.

So what is the case behind the latest ruling, and what gifts were part of it?

What is the Toshakhana or state gifts case against Khan?

The former prime minister has been accused of misusing his 2018-2022 prime ministership to unlawfully buy and sell gifts kept inside the Toshakhana, or treasure house – a government-owned department.

The Toshakhana stores gifts received by prime ministers, presidents, ministers, members of parliament and government officials. Khan was sentenced to three years in prison in August for selling state gifts worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($500,000).

The August sentencing, now suspended, was brought by the election commission. Wednesday’s conviction against the cricketer-turned-politician was brought by the anticorruption body in the same case.

Khan and Bibi were indicted three weeks ago on charges they bought gifts – including jewellery and watches – at reduced prices and sold them at market value. They pleaded not guilty.

What were the gifts mentioned in Khan’s Toshakhana case?

Some 108 gifts have been listed by Pakistan’s information minister, including perfumes, diamond jewellery, dinner sets and cufflinks.

The gifts allegedly also include seven watches, six of them Rolexes. The most expensive was a “Master Graff limited edition” valued at 85 million rupees ($300,000).

(Al Jazeera)

Why did Khan’s handling of the gifts become problematic?

Expensive gifts given to Pakistani officials by foreign dignitaries range from Rolex watches to bulletproof BMW cars to a 21-karat gold crown.

In Pakistan, government leaders are allowed to buy gifts received from foreign dignitaries and heads of state, but they aren’t usually then sold. If they are, the earnings must be declared.

In many cases, politicians and bureaucrats have bought luxury gift items at a considerably lower price.

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf – who died last February – kept a pearl necklace worth about $250 by paying just 750 rupees (about $12 according to the exchange rate at the time) in 2006.

Khan has said he declared the items and had bought them legally. He has also dismissed allegations that he held onto any state gifts or profited from them.

But the prosecution said Khan did not correctly disclose his income after selling the gifts. The former prime minister’s aides were also accused of selling some gifts in Dubai and “concealing” their value.

His wife, Bushra Bibi, became embroiled in the case after alleged leaked audio included her telling former Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bukhari to sell some of Khan’s watches, which opposition leaders have said referred to the state gifts.

Bukhari said the audio was fake and that he did not sell any watches. The alleged buyer of a watch also came out saying he did not make any such purchase.

Where is Imran Khan now?

Khan has been in jail since August as he has been facing more than 150 cases ranging from corruption to “terrorism”. He is currently being held in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.

Bushra Bibi surrendered at the jail on Wednesday.

Khan’s lawyers are filing an appeal to the verdict.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies