The Panama Papers, a global investigation into the sprawling, secretive industry of offshore that the world’s rich and powerful use to hide assets and skirt rules by setting up front companies in far-flung jurisdictions has jolted the whole world.
Based on a trove of more than 11 million leaked files, the investigation exposes a cast of characters who use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking.
The leak reveals a lot about politicians and notables in Pakistan.
Umar Cheema, a journalist working with The News International and a member of the ICIJ that partnered with more than 100 media organisations from 76 countries to review 11.5 million secret files that a whistleblower leaked to Süddeutsche Zeitung, reveals names of Pakistanis with offshore holdings.
Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, her nephew Hassan Ali Jaffery and former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik are reported as the only three shareholders of a company Petroline International Inc., reports The News.
Javed Pasha, a close friend of Asif Ali Zardari, is found to have links with five offshore companies. Pasha shares the companies with some prominent businessmen of Indian origin.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s relative Ilyas Mehraj has been mentioned as a major shareholder of a company though he firmly denies it. Another relative of the Punjab CM Samina Durrani owns three companies; the latest was opened in 2010.
Saifullah family of Lakki Marwat, which has a history of politics and business in the country, owns a record number of 34 offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles.
The companies are owned by Senator Osman Saifullah and his family members. The companies also own bank accounts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland and lands in the United Kingdom.
Interestingly, Senator Osman Saifullah is a member of the Tax Reform Commission set up by the government to check revenue leakage, broaden the revenue base and improve tax administration.
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”.