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Imran Khan denies selling state gifts given to him by Saudi crown prince

UAE-based businessman claims an ally of former Pakistani PM sold him rare items gifted by Mohammed bin Salman for $2m
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan is welcomed by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 19 September 2019 (Reuters)
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan is welcomed by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 19 September 2019 (Reuters)

Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, has denied claims that he sold rare state gifts given to him by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for $2m.

On Tuesday, United Arab Emirates-based businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor told Pakistani television channel Geo TV that he had bought an antique watch, a diamond ring, a gold pen, and a set of diamond cufflinks from an ally of the former premier in 2019. 

Zahoor said he paid in cash for the gifts, which were given to him in Dubai by Farah Gogi, a close aide of Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi Khan. 

The Pakistani-Norwegian, now based in Dubai, said that Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the former accountability minister, had asked if he was interested in buying the watch, before introducing him to Gogi. 

“Gogi was frank. She told me the history of these gifts and said these have been given to Prime Minister Imran Khan by the Saudi crown prince and that she wanted to sell these on behalf of Imran Khan and his wife,” Zahoor told GeoTV. 

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Khan has denied the allegations, stating that it was part of a campaign to discredit him. He vowed to sue Zahoor and Geo TV in courts in London and the UAE for “character assassination”. 

Shazad Akbar took to Twitter to deny the allegations, stating that he had never met or spoken to Zahoor. 

Zahoor, who grew up in Norway, has been accused by his ex-wife, the actor, and model Sophia Mirza, of kidnapping and smuggling their twin daughters, who now live with him in Dubai. 

The businessman has also previously had an Interpol red notice out against him and is reportedly wanted in Norway, Pakistan, Turkey, and Switzerland, where he is accused of financial and other crimes. 

Toshakhana controversy

Last month, Pakistan’s election commission barred Khan from running for political office for five years after ruling that he had misled officials about gifts received from foreign leaders. 

The former prime minister was accused of failing to declare all gifts he had been given and profiting from selling some of them.

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Officials in Pakistan are required by law to deposit overseas presents to the Toshakhana, a government department named after the Mughal-era treasure houses used by rulers to display gifts. 

Under Pakistani law, recipients are allowed to keep lower-value gifts and can buy back some higher-value gifts from the Toshakhana at a discounted price.

Khan and his wife are believed to have retained all 112 gifts they received in office. 

The 70-year-old's lawyers said they would challenge the electoral commission’s ruling in Islamabad’s high court. 

Earlier this month, Khan was lightly wounded after an unidentified gunman opened fire on his convoy in an attack that killed one person and injured six more.  

The former Pakistan cricket captain has been embroiled in a war of words with the country's powerful military and intelligence services since he was ousted from power in April following a vote of no confidence.

In October he launched a march with his supporters from the eastern city of Lahore toward the capital Islamabad to demand early elections. 

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