Pak politicians, businessmen own companies abroad
By Umar Cheema
Benazir, Javed Pasha, Saifullahs, Hashwanis, Lakhanis, relatives of Shahbaz, Chaudhrys among owners; Putin, Saudi king, among 72 current, former heads of state also included; Nawaz, Shahbaz don’t own any firm directly, four belong to Hussain Nawaz, Hasan Nawaz & Mariam Nawaz
ISLAMABAD: A treasure trove of leaked documents has blown the lid off the faces behind offshore companies operating in multi-layered secrecy, revealing names throughout the world, including those of Pakistani politicians, businessmen, bankers as well as a serving high court judge and a retired judge.
The findings are based on a year-long investigation of The News that obtained access to the otherwise best-kept secrets of the world, thanks to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
This correspondent is a member of the ICIJ that partnered with more than 100 media organisations from 76 countries to review 11.5 million secret files that a whistleblower leaked to Süddeutsche Zeitung. The project has been given the name of the Panama Papers. About the project, the ICIJ said there are also legal means to send money abroad, and we do not suggest that all that is revealed was done unlawfully or by illegal means.
The names found in the secret files range from those of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s relatives; from Benazir Bhutto to Javed Pasha; from Senator Rehman Malik to Senator Osman Saifullah’s family; and from Waseem Gulzar (a relative of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat) to Zain Sukhera, who was co-accused with former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s son in the Haj scandal.
Businessmen featured in the record range from hotel tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani to real estate czar Malik Riaz Hussain’s son; from the Hussain Dawood family to the Abdullah family of Sapphire Textiles, Gul Muhammad Tabba of Lucky Textiles as well as Shahid Nazir of Masood Textiles and from Zulfiqar Ali Lakhani to Zulfiqar Paracha.
Members from the bar and the bench were also spotted in the documents include one serving judge of the Lahore High Court, Justice Farrukh Irfan; and one retired judge, Malik Qayyum. Owner of Hilton Pharma, Shehbaz Yasin Malik opened the company for a Swiss bank account. Chairman ABM Group of Companies Azam Sultan, Pizza Hut owner Aqeel Hussain and Chairman Soorty Enterprise Abdul Rashid Soorty were also identified along with the family members.
At a global level, the ICIJ and its partners discovered the offshore companies controlled by the prime minister of Iceland, the late father of UK prime minister, children of Azerbaijan’s president, the king of Saudi Arabia, associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin who stashed two billion dollars through banks and shadow companies, the Ukrainian president and brother-in-law of the Chinese president, among other prominent figures. Meanwhile, the BBC said that names 72 former and current heads of state have surfaced in the documents.
As many as 29 billionaires featured in Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s 500 richest people and movie star Jackie Chan have also figured in the list of company owners in addition to the family of Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai’s family.
Records spanning four decades buried behind the tight wall of secrecy are on open display now confirming doubts and fuelling debate about the offshore jurisdictions like the British Virgin Island, Panama and Seychelles etc. Data made available is of one little known but a big law firm based in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, having global footprints in terms of its offshore clients.
Over 200 Pakistanis have been identified and the counting is still in progress. The data under examination covers nearly 40 years from 1977 through the end of 2015. Pakistanis started figuring in the record from 1990 onward.
While a majority of Pakistanis figuring in the documents are businessmen, the politico-business Saifullah family of Lakki Marwat stays on top with a record number of 34 offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles owned by Senator Osman Saifullah, Anwar Saifullah, Salim Saifullah, Humayun Saifullah, Dr. Iqbal Saifullah, Javed Saifullah and Jehangir Saifullah. Bank accounts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland and property in UK are owned by these companies.
Incidentally, Senator Osman Saifullah is a member of the Tax Reform Commission set up by the government to check revenue leakage, broaden the revenue base and improve tax administration.
The family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is conspicuous due to its political profile. The record identifies four companies in the ownership of Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s relatives Samina Durrani and Ilyas Mehraj have also figured in the documents examined.
A company earlier accused in the oil-for-food bribery scandal also resurfaced in the record reconfirming the late Benazir Bhutto, her nephew, Hassan Ali Jaffery and Senator Rehman Malik as the only three shareholders of Petroline International Inc.
Javed Pasha has been found linked with five companies. The remaining shareholders in those companies are prominent businessmen of Indian origin.
None but Sadruddin Hashwani, Ilyas Mehraj, Justice (retd) Malik Qayyum and Aqeel Hussain responded among the above-mentioned individuals when contacted for their versions that have been incorporated. When contacted some said that to own and run an off shore company is lawful and according to the rules and regulation, while some did not reply.
Examination of data indicates that some are beginners in this secret world, others incorporated the companies but left them dormant ending at dissolutions whereas many have kept them active using them for the intended purposes.
The record of ownership varies as it ranges from emails to spreadsheets, passports, signatures of shareholders, bank accounts details, property documents, resolution of directors and contact details in Pakistan and abroad.
Most of the services the offshore industry provides are legal in the origin of the respective jurisdictions like British Virgin Islands, Channel Islands, The Bahamas, Republic of Panama, Republic of Seychelles, NIUE and others. What remains to be seen in terms of Pakistani individuals is the purpose of using tax havens and whether or not they have declared this business in their tax declarations.
The overall data indicates that many of the owners of such companies from different parts of the world were also involved in drug trafficking, robberies and cheating.
Associates of Dawood Ibrahim, Junaid Iqbal Memon, Nadiya Javed Malik and Hajra Iqbal Memon also own companies. In response to a query about the source of funding they replied to the British Virgin Islands administration that funds are generated “through borrowing/loan.”
The files examined by ICIJ and its partners found a convicted money launderer who claimed he had arranged a $50,000 illegal campaign contribution used to pay the Watergate burglars, drug kingpins, tax evaders and at least one jailed sex offender owning offshore companies.
The files contain new details about major scandals ranging from England’s most infamous gold heist to the bribery allegations convulsing FIFA, the body that rules international soccer.
Although no offshore entity is directly owned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as many as eight companies have been identified that are linked either with Hussain Nawaz, his sister and brother or Shahbaz’s relatives, the documents show.
Maryam Nawaz is the secret beneficial owner of two companies set up in 1993-94. She is also shareholder of another company jointly owned by her and Hussain Nawaz. Hassan is sole owner of yet another offshore holding. The companies have last been used for purchasing six properties in London during 2007-2008.
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