ISLAMABAD: Nearly nine months after they were first released, the German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung — the original source of the Panama Papers leaks — on Monday released four documents apparently showing Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s connection with the company that owns the Park Lane flats in London.
“For those in #Pakistan who doubt the role of the prime ministers daughter Mariam Safdar in #panamapapers - some of the docs. Judge yourself,” reads the tweet from ‘SZ Investigativ’, the investigative arm of the German publication that first obtained access to the Panama Papers.
The tweet was accompanied by a Minerva Financial Services Ltd ‘Personal Information Form’ — containing Mariam Safdar’s particulars — a copy of her passport at the time and a letter from Samba Financial Group’s Al-Tahlia ladies branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The inscription on the form states that it should be filled by “all individuals including proposed beneficial owners, shareholders, directors, secretaries, settlers, protectors, beneficiaries [and] authorised signatories.”
Süddeutsche Zeitung reporter says documents ‘not new’, but are in public interest
Nowhere in the document is Mariam Safdar — the married name of Maryam Nawaz Sharif — explicitly named as the beneficial owner of Minerva, but the fact that her particulars have been entered on this form does indicate that she was connected to the company in one of the capacities listed above.
The documents released are not new, as they are already part of the first batch of documents submitted by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to the Supreme Court bench hearing the Panamagate case.
PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that these particular documents, which have already been submitted to the Supreme Court, were obtained by them from the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands.
According to the PTI’s case, Minerva Financial Services Ltd is the holding company for Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, the offshore companies that own the Park Lane flats used by the Sharif family.
But in a reply submitted before the Supreme Court, Maryam Sharif has stated that she was never the beneficial owner of any property or entity, rather was a trustee of the entities that were being managed for the sole benefit of her brother, Hussain Nawaz.
Bastian Obermayer, the lead reporter on the Panama Papers for Süddeutsche Zeitung, also tweeted about the documents released on Monday.
In a series of messages from his Twitter account, Mr Obermayer maintained that his organisation “decided to publish more [documents] about the case... for the public interest”.
When asked by another Twitter user whether anyone around the world had challenged the authenticity of the Panama Papers, Mr Obermayer responded: “not that I would be aware of. Not even Putin, whose best friend and godfather of his daughter is [named].”
Mr Obermayer told Dawn that the original documents from the Panama Papers were not publicly available, aside from the structural information given on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) website.
“We did not want to claim that they would be ‘new’, as we were not sure if a colleague had already published those or someone had already given those to the Supreme Court — which is what we had heard. But as we couldn’t find the key documents online, we decided to publish them.”
He was at pains to explain that: “we are on neither side of this, and while we think the concept of accountability is right, we don’t want to judge who lied. But if there’s a Supreme Court case, the people should know the documents in question. This is why we put them online now.”
When asked if there would be a full-fledged story to accompany this release, Mr Obermayer said: “For now we only want to publish the information for public interest. We will keep on doing so in other cases worldwide, like we did lately in Iceland’s case.”
Umar Cheema, the only Pakistani journalist in the ICIJ who had access to the complete Panama Papers data dump, told Dawn that these documents were already in circulation, even though they had not been publicly released.
When asked why these documents had been released now, Mr Cheema said that Pakistan was the only country in the world where the Panamagate scandal was still in the headlines. “In other countries, politicians who were implicated in the Panama Papers have either stepped down or investigations have been held to assign blame,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2017