ISLAMABAD: The government claims to have unearthed another scam of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif relating to his private visits abroad at the government’s expense, causing losses running into millions of rupees to the national exchequer.
“Nawaz Sharif has made 25 private foreign trips during his rule from 2013 to 2018 on taxpayers’ money of Rs250 million,” the prime minister’s adviser on accountability, Shahzad Akbar, said at a press conference on Thursday.
Mr Akbar, who is also head of the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU), said that of these 25 foreign trips, some were made to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah along with family members and friends. “Although Mr Sharif is a rich man, even then he performed Umrah on taxpayers’ money,” he said.
The adviser also gave details of misuse of official aircraft for private tours by Mr Sharif, saying his one Umrah trip cost Rs35m. Responding to a question, he said the ARU had completed its investigation into the private foreign visits of the former premier and referred it to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as a fresh case of misuse of authority.
“Some other cases of misuse of authority are already being investigated against Nawaz Sharif and it will be the fresh one and will be dealt with separately by NAB,” he added.
Mr Akbar claimed that under a recently signed agreement on exchange of information about assets of citizens, the Swiss authorities would provide details of Pakistanis’ assets stashed in Switzerland within the next six weeks. He said the treaty had been pending for the last five years and the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had intentionally ignored it.
The adviser alleged that the PML-N rulers had avoided signing the agreement to save their own skin, otherwise details of their assets in Swiss banks could have been exposed.
He said the government had information that after the Panama Papers leaks most of the Pakistanis had shifted their money and assets from Switzerland to other countries. “As a result, we have sought details of Pakistanis’ assets of the last five years from Swiss authorities.”
In reply to a question, Mr Akbar said that details of Swiss bank accounts were also available with the German authorities and, therefore, the German government was also being contacted to get such details.
He said the government had also prepared a draft protocol to be signed with the British Virgin Islands (BVI) authorities and expressed the hope that the details of assets of Pakistanis in the United Kingdom would also be shared with the Pakistan government.
“During Panama Papers leaks investigation, we faced disappointment that the British Virgin Islands did not provide us details of assets of Pakistanis, but once the protocol is signed, the required information will also be received from there,” he added.
The prime minister’s adviser said the protocol would be presented in the federal cabinet which was likely to formally approve initiation of negotiations with the British authorities in its next meeting.
He claimed that the ARU was also getting information about another undeclared house of Mr Sharif in London which was in the name of his wife Kalsoom Nawaz.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018