Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said revelations by United Kingdom based firm Broadsheet had once again exposed the "massive scale of our ruling elites' corruption and money laundering", adding that these were just the "tip of the iceberg".
In a series of tweets, the premier said that the same people had earlier been exposed by the Panama Papers. "These elites cannot hide behind the 'victimisation' card on these international revelations."
Imran said these revelations had repeatedly exposed what he had been saying in his "24-year fight against corruption which is the biggest threat to the country's progress".
"These elites come to power & plunder the country. They do money laundering to stash their ill-gotten gains abroad, safe from domestic prosecution. Then they use their political clout to get NROs. That is how they kept their plundered wealth safe," he said, adding that the nation suffered as a consequence.
"Not only is the nation's wealth stolen by the elites, taxpayer money, paid for recovering this wealth, is wasted because of NROs. These revelations [are the] tip of the iceberg. We want complete transparency from Broadsheet on our elites' money laundering and on who stopped investigations," he wrote.
A day earlier, the premier formed an inter-ministerial committee after Broadsheet LLC’s Kaveh Moussavi said his firm was influenced by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and others and that it had evidence of money laundering by some other Pakistanis.
The prime minister discussed the issue during ‘zero hour’, after completing discussion on the agenda of the cabinet meeting, and in the presence of cabinet members only.
“The cabinet formed an inter-ministerial committee, which will reveal details of the individuals mentioned in the Broadsheet scandal,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz said, adding that the premier had now decided to make the names public after thorough scrutiny of the available material.
Broadsheet LLC, a UK company that was registered in the Isle of Man in the Pervez Musharraf era, helped the then government and newly established National Accountability Bureau (NAB) track down foreign assets purchased by Pakistanis through alleged ill-gotten wealth.
Broadsheet claims that it was established to enter into an Asset Recovery Agreement dated June 20, 2000, and did so with the then president of Pakistan, through the NAB chairman, for the purposes of recovering funds and other assets fraudulently taken from the state and other institutions, including through corrupt practices, and held outside of Pakistan.
Broadsheet maintains that it was created to be a company specialising in the recovery of assets and funds, and was therefore engaged to trace, locate and transfer such items back to the state.
A lawyer associated with the company earlier told Dawn that the Sharifs were the “top target” of the Broadsheet investigation. Its contract was terminated in 2003 by NAB.
Earlier this week, the controversy took another turn after the firm's owner alleged that a person who claimed to be associated with Nawaz approached him in 2012 and offered a sum of money to drop the probe against him.
Speaking to Dawn, Moussavi repeated the allegations. He said: “A gentleman named Anjum Dar purporting to be Nawaz Sharif’s nephew turned up in 2012. I met him twice, once in Canterbury and then in London.” He said the individual offered him $25 million.
“He showed me a picture of him hugging Nawaz Sharif at home and sitting with him. He produced a tape recording as well — it was in Urdu so I didn’t know what it was saying.”
In response to a question about whether he considered the offer, Moussavi said: “When we realised that he was basically offering some money for us to go away, my response was that any money being offered should come by way of lawyers in the arbitration.”
When asked why he did not report the development to authorities in the United Kingdom, or to the court-appointed arbitrator, he said: “I certainly discussed it with lawyers but we decided not to take it up with the authorities.” Moussavi did not elaborate on why, but when asked who the gentleman is, he said to ask the Sharif family.
On the question of why the Sharifs or their representative would offer him a bribe in 2012, many years after his asset recovery contract with the government had ended in 2003, Moussavi said: “We were in arbitration and the arbitrator would have to probe into the whole issue. They didn’t want that to come up.”
Commenting on the development, Nawaz's son, Hussain Nawaz, told Dawn: “This is absolutely not true. We have no relative named Anjum Dar. If an individual claiming such a thing had come to him [Moussavi], was it difficult for his investigative company to determine who he is before making such an allegation?”
He added: “Nawaz Sharif has two brothers and one sister and all their children’s names are in the public domain. Is Moussavi such a poor investigator that he wasn’t able to determine this simple fact even after nine years?”