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A.Q. Khan’s family figures in Panama Papers

Updated May 14, 2016

KARACHI: The family of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, has been named in the Panama Papers. Abdul Quyuim Khan, the brother of A.Q. Khan, and Hendrina, his wife, as well as Dina and Ayesha Khan, his two daughters, are all shown as owners of Wahdat Ltd, a company registered in the Bahamas.

Although the names are not part of the data released online by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Wahdat Ltd does appear on the website. However, it has been named in the larger database obtained by the group. The company was registered in January of 1998, months before the nuclear tests of May that year, and deregistered on Dec 31, 1999, shortly after the Oct 12 coup.

“I have never even heard the name of this company,” A.Q. Khan told Dawn over phone. “Neither did my wife and daughters. My brother, who died a few years ago, was with Habib Bank and, as you know, bankers are always up to their tricks and hanky panky,” he said without mincing words. “My wife and daughters never signed any documents to create this company. The signatures (on the incorporation paperwork) are surely false. My brother never discussed it with me and my family only heard about this company after the Panama Papers release.”

The company has been shown as an intermediary of ILS Fiduciaries IOM (Ltd), registered in the Isle of Man and still active. That company has links to 611 other entities from various jurisdictions like Panama and Niue in the database, dating back to 1993, most of which are either “inactive” or “defaulted”.

The ICIJ defines an intermediary as “[a] go-between for someone seeking an offshore corporation and an offshore service provider—usually a law firm or a middleman that asks an offshore service provider to create an offshore firm for a client.

It is not clear what the documents in the larger ICIJ database reveal about the activities of the company since ICIJ has not released them publicly. According to at least one person who has examined the documents but declined to share them, there is neither any evidence of movement of funds nor any information regarding bank accounts owned by the company.

Further public disclosure of these documents will clarify this.

In 2004, Dina Khan’s bank accounts in the UAE were frozen on the request of the US government. US government cables leaked through Wikileaks described three conversations between the governor of the UAE’s central bank and an official from the US Treasury Department, in which the governor was quoted as saying: “I personally recommend that Dina Khan be eliminated from the list [of people whose accounts have to be frozen due to links with WMD proliferation] because there is not enough evidence to justify continuing the freeze”.

The request was denied.

The last cable in the leaks is dated Jan 2010; the accounts remained frozen till then.

Abdul Qadeer Khan was at the centre of a massive global nuclear proliferation scandal in 2004. In a series of dramatic developments, he was accused by then army chief and president Pervez Musharraf of running a rogue proliferation network for nuclear material. Shortly after Musharraf’s announcement, a recorded confession by Khan was aired in which he took sole responsibility for all the nuclear proliferation that had been revealed.

Dr Khan has been under house arrest ever since 2004, although he continues to move around, make phone calls, receive visitors and write a regular column in a newspaper. He told Dawn that his daughter had returned to Pakistan from the UAE following the appearance of her name in the Panama Papers.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2016