ISLAMABAD: A massive leak of secret files from a Panamanian law firm that specialises in offshore tax havens has revealed the often-murky financial wheelings and dealings of some of the world’s most powerful political players, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the king of Saudi Arabia, Iceland’s prime minister and the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, among dozens of others.

In a data dump that is described as being larger than leaked US diplomatic cables, around 2.6 terabytes of information drawn from the internal database of Mossack Fonseca has been made public.

The data from the Panama Papers, available on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — one of around 100 news organisations and 300 journalists that worked on mining the data simultaneously — also reveals the offshore holdings of members of Prime Minister Sharif’s family.

According to documents available on the ICIJ website, the PM’s children Mariam, Hasan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.

Mariam is described as “the owner of British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, incorporated in 1994 and 1993”.

On one of the documents released by ICIJ, the address listed for Nielsen Enterprises is Saroor Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The document, dated June 2012, describes Mariam Safdar as the ‘beneficial owner’.

According to ICIJ, “Hussain and Mariam signed a document dated June 2007 that was part of a series of transactions in which Deutsche Bank Geneva lent up to $13.8 million to Nescoll, Nielsen and another company, with their London properties as collateral.”

In July 2014, the two companies were transferred to another agent.

Hasan Nawaz Sharif is described as “the sole director of Hangon Property Holdings Limited incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in February 2007, which acquired Liberia-based firm Cascon Holdings Establishment Limited for about $11.2 million in August 2007”.

But the papers are not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. According to The Guardian, using offshore structures is entirely legal.

“There are many legitimate reasons for doing so. Business people in countries such as Russia and Ukraine typically put their assets offshore to defend them from `raids’ by criminals, and to get around hard currency restrictions,” the paper said in an explanatory note.

Leaders such as the presidents of Ukraine, Argentina, UAE; as well as relatives of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Syrian leader Bashaar al-Assad, a former Chinese PM, as well as the son of former UN chief Kofi Anan are also mentioned in the leaked documents. It is expected that the data leak will yield more information in days to come.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2016

Opinion

Editorial

Debt deferment
Updated 26 Sep, 2022

Debt deferment

Pakistan’s dollar funding needs for next 5 years have never been so large and world’s appetite to hold its hands never so poor.
Dengue concerns
26 Sep, 2022

Dengue concerns

AS weather conditions change in Pakistan, the threat of dengue looms large over the land. According to a warning...
Relic of colonialism
26 Sep, 2022

Relic of colonialism

THE law on sedition, one of several holdovers of colonial times, is among the most handy instruments for controlling...
UNGA speech
25 Sep, 2022

UNGA speech

CRISES test a nation’s resilience but also provide opportunities to rise and move forward. Prime Minister Shehbaz...
Dar’s return
Updated 25 Sep, 2022

Dar’s return

Dar will now be expected by his party to conjure up fiscal space for the govt to start spending ahead of the next elections.
Iran hijab protests
25 Sep, 2022

Iran hijab protests

FOR over a week now, Iran has been witnessing considerable tumult after a young woman died earlier this month in the...