Wednesday, January 19, 2022

More than 700 Pakistanis named in Pandora Papers leak

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The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has unveiled “Pandora Papers” which includes the names of more than 700 Pakistanis, it emerged on Sunday.

The leaked documents revealed that key politicians including federal cabinet members, opposition party leaders, “have secretly owned an array of companies”.

Most prominently these include Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi, Senator Faisal Vawda, Federal minister Khusro Bakhtiar’s family, Ishaq Dar’s son, PPP’s Sharjeel Memon, Punjab minister and PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan, Axact CEO Shoaib Sheik, among others.

Shaukat Tarin, Moonis Elahi among over 700 Pakistanis named in ICIJ's 'Pandora Papers' - DAWN.COM

According to the investigation’s findings, Finance Minister Tarin and his family members own four offshore companies.

Former minister for water resources Faisal Vawda set up an offshore company in 2012 to invest in UK properties, the Pandora Papers show. The now-senator told the ICIJ that he had declared all foreign assets held in his name to tax authorities.

The expose further revealed that the son of former finance adviser to the prime minister Waqar Masood Khan co-owned a company based in the British Virgin Islands. Khan told the ICIJ that he did not know what his son’s company did and that his son lived a “modest life”, and was not his dependent.

Read More: PANDORA PAPERS: ‘NO OFFSHORE COMPANY OWNED BY PM IMRAN KHAN’

“The records also reveal the offshore dealings of Arif Naqvi, who is facing fraud charges in the United States,” the ICIJ said.

Moreover, the documents contain no suggestion that PM Imran Khan himself owns offshore companies.

Allegations against Moonis Elahi

The documents show that Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, contacted Asiaciti, a Singapore-based offshore services provider, in 2016 about setting up a trust to invest the profits from a family land deal that had been financed by what the lender later claimed was an illegal loan. The bank told Pakistani authorities that the loan had been approved due to the influence of Elahi’s father, a former deputy prime minister.

A family spokesman for the Elahi family told ICIJ’s media partners that, “due to political victimisation misleading interpretations and data have been circulated in files for nefarious reasons.” He maintained that the family’s assets “are declared as per applicable law”.

PM announces probe against Pakistanis named in Pandora Papers 

Prime Minister Imran Khan Sunday welcomed the release of Pandora Papers leak saying that it exposed the ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion and corruption and laundered out to financial “havens”.

In a series of messages on Twitter, the prime minister said that his over two decades of struggle has been premised on the belief that countries are not poor but corruption causes poverty because money is diverted from being invested in our people.

Also, he said that this resource-theft causes devaluation, leading to thousands of poverty-related deaths.

“Just like the East India Company plundered the wealth of India, ruling elites of developing world are doing the same. Unfortunately, the rich states are neither interested in preventing this large-scale plunder nor in repatriating this looted money.”

Imran Khan further shared that the United Nation’s SG’s Panel FACTI calculated a staggering US$7 trillion in stolen assets parked in largely offshore tax-havens.

“My government will investigate all our citizens mentioned in the Pandora Papers and if any wrongdoing is established we will take appropriate action,” he said.

Jordanian, Czech leaders named in ‘Pandora Papers’

While foreign aid poured in, Jordan's King Abdullah funnelled $100m through secret companies to buy luxury US and UK homes - ICIJ

The secret documents also expose offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, the presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador, the prime minister of the Czech Republic and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The King of Jordan secretly spent more than £70m ($100m) on a property empire in the UK and US.

Leaked financial documents identify a network of secretly-owned firms used by Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein to buy 15 homes since he assumed power in 1999.

They included houses in Malibu, and in London and Ascot in the UK.

The files also detail the financial activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unofficial minister of propaganda” and more than 130 billionaires from Russia, the United States, Turkey and other nations.

People linked by the secret documents to offshore assets include India’s cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar, pop music diva Shakira, supermodel Claudia Schiffer and an Italian mobster known as “Lell the Fat One.”

According to a document, Tendulkar’s attorney said the cricket player’s investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities. Shakira’s attorney said the singer declared her companies, which the attorney said do not provide tax advantages. Schiffer’s representatives said the supermodel correctly pays her taxes in the U.K., where she lives.

Among the other revelations from the ICIJ investigation

Family and associates of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are alleged to have been secretly involved in property deals in Britain worth hundreds of millions.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and six family members are alleged to secretly own a network of offshore companies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not directly named in the files, but he is linked via associates to secret assets in Monaco.

The probe

The “Pandora Papers” are the latest in a series of mass ICIJ leaks of financial documents that started with LuxLeaks in 2014 and was followed by the Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers and FinCen.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained the trove of more than 11.9 million confidential files and led a team of more than 600 journalists from 150 news outlets that spent two years sifting through them, tracking down hard-to-find sources and digging into court records and other public documents from dozens of countries.

The leaked records come from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients often seeking to keep their financial activities in the shadows. The records include information about the dealings of nearly three times as many current and former country leaders as any previous leak of documents from offshore havens.

The files expose how some of the most powerful people in the world – including more than 330 politicians from 90 countries – use secret offshore companies to hide their wealth.

It may be recalled that the Panama Papers released in 2016 included the names of 444 Pakistanis.

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