PTI ministers among 700 Pakistanis named in Pandora Papers

LAHORE: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Sunday revealed its “Pandora Papers”, a coordinated major international investigative research project into the financial secrets of high-profile individuals.

The publication named Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, PML-Q’s Moonis Elahi, Senator Faisal Vawda, Ishaq Dar’s son, PPP’s Sharjeel Memon, the family of Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiar, PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan, the son of Khan’s former adviser for finance and revenue, Waqar Masood Khan, among others, who either directly or indirectly own offshore companies.

The records also reveal the offshore dealings of a top PTI donor, Arif Naqvi, who is facing fraud charges in the United States.

Some relatives of retired army officials, media company owners and businessmen — including Axact’s CEO Shoaib Sheikh, have also been named in the leaks.

Mir Shakilur Rehman has also been named in the leaks as owner of an offshore company, which he claims was shut down in 2018.

Arif Usmani, President of National Bank of Pakistan, Ahsan Latif, son in law of Lt-Gen (R) Khalid Maqbool, Ms Zahra Tanvir, the wife of Lt-Gen (R) Tanvir Shah, former defence production secretary, Shahnaz Sajjad, the sister of Lt-Gen (R) Ali Quli Khan, Umar and Ahad Khattak, the sons of Air Marshal Abbas Khattak, Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, Ambassador at Large for foreign investment, Lt-Gen (R) Shafatullah Shah, former military secretary to Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf, Maj-Gen (R) Nusrat Naeem, former ISI DG for Counterterrorism, Abdullah Masood Khan, son of former special assistant to Prime Minister Waqar Masood, Hassan Muzaffar, the son of General (R) Afzal Muzaffar and others have also featured in the Pandora Papers.

It is pertinent to mention here that there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. The release of this report does not imply that any people, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.

The ICIJ released a report  titled “Prime Minister Imran Khan promised ‘new Pakistan’ but members of his inner circle secretly moved millions offshore” based on Pandora Papers Sunday night.

According to the report, leaked documents revealed that “key members” of Prime Minister Imran’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers, their families and major financial backers “have secretly owned an array of companies and trusts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth”.

PM responds

Welcoming the development, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted “We welcome the Pandora Papers exposing the ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion & corruption & laundered out to financial “havens”.

He tweeted that all those named would be investigate and appropriate action would be taken.

A source has told Pakistan Today that Prime Minister Imran Khan has summoned a meeting of legal advisors today to look into the matter.

Biggest yet

Pandora Papers is “our most expansive exposé of financial secrecy yet”, said the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that in 2016 leaked an unprecedented 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

Containing 11.9 million files, Pandora Papers are said to be larger than their predecessor in terms of data collection and collaboration, made possible by the largest research team in the history of journalism in the world.

More than 600 reporters from around the world, belonging to 150 media organisations spanning 117 countries, participated in the research for two years. The Pandora Papers contain 11.9 million files.

Reporters Omar Cheema and Fakhar Durrani from a private media house in Pakistan were part of the investigation team.

“The number of people named in [the Pandora Papers] is more than those named in the Panama Papers,” Cheema said, adding “the names are kind of interesting, but you will have to wait for another 24 hours”. He said that the ICIJ teams worked on the project for two years.

The project named the Pandora Papers is in reference to the Greek mythology’s character in whose box would be all the ills of humanity. It is expected that Pandora Papers would open another Pandora’s box that might led to the downfall of several capitals of the world and big names.

 

Panama Papers were released when Mian Nawaz Sharif was serving as Prime Minister of Pakistan. The leak exposed details of London properties and offshore companies owned by his children. The case subsequently made it to the SC that dismissed the PM under articles 62 and 63 of the constitution.

Speaking to GEO news Cheema said, “whether it is a public office holder, or an ordinary citizen, offshore companies do need to be declared while filing tax returns and must also be declared to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.”

“An added responsibility on politicians is that they have to declare their assets to the Election Commission of Pakistan, so they must declare it there as well.”

Pandora Leaks strengthens PM’s stance: Chaudhry 

Following the announcement by the ICIJ, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday that details revealed in the “Pandora Papers” — major international research on the financial secrets held by high-profile individuals set to be released later today — will “further strengthen” Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stance.

“Panama Papers revealed offshore assets of very corrupt people. Now another research of ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) is coming. PM Imran stressed upon rich countries that hiding of poor countries’ money in rich countries should be discouraged,” he said in a tweet.

“We expect that this research, like Panama [Papers], will open new avenues of transparency and become another reason to discourage corruption,” Chaudhry said.

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