WASHINGTON: Former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has been named in the ‘Paradise Papers’ issued by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) for being linked to offshore companies.
The leaked documents show how deeply the offshore financial system is entangled with the overlapping worlds of political players, private wealth and corporate giants and other global companies avoid taxes through increasingly imaginative bookkeeping maneuvers.
The most detailed revelations emerge in decades of corporate records from the white-shoe offshore law firm Appleby.
Shaukat Aziz was Prime Minister of Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, after serving a five-year stint as the country’s finance minister.
Aziz, who worked for Citibank before starting his career as a politician, was one of the shareholders and directors of Bahamas-registered Cititrust Limited from 1997 to 1999, along with other executives of the bank.
In 1999, the year he was appointed finance minister, Aziz created the Antarctic Trust, which was “constituted [in the United States] for the benefit of the Settlor’s family,” which includes his wife, three children and a granddaughter.
The trust does not appear in the financial disclosure statements Aziz submitted from 2003 to 2006, while he was finance minister and prime minister.
Appleby’s Bermuda office was the trust’s protector, acting as an independent overseer. In a 2012 internal memo, the law firm’s compliance officer noted that Aziz had been accused by the opposition of false declaration of assets, corruption and misappropriation of funds.
Three years later, in a database of high-risk clients, Appleby also noted that a Pakistani court had issued three arrest warrants against Aziz. In September 2015, Antarctic Trust was closed and the related file removed from one of Appleby’s internal databases. Aziz has dismissed both the accusations of graft and any association with the murder.
The Antarctic Trust, now closed, held most of Aziz’s assets earned when he worked at Citicorp and was created before he relocated to Pakistan to be appointed finance minister.
The purpose was “to insure that if he were to die, his assets would pass efficiently to his family,” Aziz’s lawyer told ICIJ. The law in Pakistan requires politicians to disclose their assets.
Asked why Aziz’s asset declarations in Pakistan didn’t mention the Antarctic Trust, the lawyer told ICIJ that the “legal owner” of the trust was Citicorp Trust Delaware N.A., not Aziz, and that Aziz and his family members paid all U.S. taxes they owed, the lawyer said.
Cititrust is an affiliate of Citicorp where Aziz was an executive, and managed his personal assets for many years, the lawyer said.