FeaturedNationalVolume 13 Issue # 07

From Panama to Paradise

Names of 135 Pakistanis have appeared in the Paradise Leaks after over 400 were caught in the Panama Leaks last year. Contrary to the Panama Leaks which hit mainly Pakistan and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the new disclosures have rocked the whole world. Over 25,000 companies, owned by the world’s rich and influential people from 180 countries, have been exposed in the biggest leaks so far and investigations and protests have already started against them.


The Paradise Papers include 127 politicians and public officials and 14 of them are current or former country leaders from more than 47 countries. Some 140 politicians and public officials from more than 50 countries had been named in the Panama Papers in April, 2016. From Pakistan’s perspective, only few politicians and known figures make the new list. They include former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, former National Insurance Corporation Limited (NICL) Chairman Ayaz Khan Niazi, Sadruddin Hashwani, founder of the Hashoo Group of Companies, Mian Mansha, a close aide to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and chairman of the Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) and Nishat Group of Companies, Zaheeruddin, the successful bidder of the DTH service in Pakistan, Nooruddin Feerasta, owner of Soneri Bank, and Hussain Dawood, chairman of the Dawood Hercules Corporation.


The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has not yet released a complete list of Pakistanis who own offshore companies. According to it, the record of the Pakistanis was mostly found in Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Malta. Former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was linked to two trusts. Cititrust Limited was set up by the Citibank in Bahamas and he was its director. It was formed when he worked at the bank. He set up the Antarctic Trust in his own name. His wife, three children and a granddaughter are its beneficiaries. Ayaz Khan Niazi holds four offshore companies in British Virgin Islands. Sadurddin Hashwani owns one company each in Barbados and Cayman Islands. The companies were used to obtain hefty loans from Standard Chartered in another offshore haven, Mauritius, and its branch in London. Mian Mansha owns six offshore companies. Four of them are in British Virgin Islands and two in Mauritius. He has also owned an account in a Swiss bank since 1994.


According to the ICIJ, Alauddin J. Feerasta, chairman of Soneri Bank, is the owner of Rangeworth Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, with an account in a Swiss bank. Nooruddin Feerasta, his nephew and chairman of Rupali Polyester Limited, also owns a company in the British Virgins Islands with an account in a Swiss bank. Obaid Altaf Khananai, who was convicted of money laundering in the US, also had a Swiss bank account. Hussain Dawood is linked to a company registered in the Isle of Man, with two Swiss accounts. Islamabad-based businessman, Zaheeruddin, who won the DTH bid, owns three companies in the British Virgin Islands and two accounts in HSBC, Bermuda, and Bank of Bermuda. He had not declared them when he provided his business details to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulator Authority (PEMRA). The Paradise Papers say a Mauritius-based offshore company, Balyasny SI Limited, invested in an English language daily in Pakistan. Balyasny is a subsidiary of the Shakti Master Fund L.P., which also purchased shares of Pace Pakistan, owned by the family of former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who was assassinated in 2011.


The biggest names of the world, caught in the new leaks, include British Queen Elizabeth II and her son Prince Charles. The Duchy of Lancaster, the private estate of the Queen, was found to have millions of pounds invested in offshore arrangements. Around £10 million from the Queen’s private fund was paid into funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda between 2004 and 2005. Prince Charles’ private estate invested millions of pounds in offshore funds and companies, including a Bermuda-registered business run by one of his best friends. The documents also reveal shady business connection of US President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Russian companies, secret investment of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief fundraiser, offshore investment of the Queen of Jordan, presidents of Ukraine, Columbia and Liberia, the Australian prime minister, a former Austrian chancellor, two sons of the Turkish prime minister, finance and agriculture ministers of Brazil, a few parliamentarians of Iraq, Iran and Ukraine, a minister and officials of the Kazakhstan oil ministry, foreign minister of Uganda, former presidents of Ghana, Indonesia, cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a former prime minister of Japan, Qatar’s Finance Minister Ali Shareef al-Emadi, former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khlifa al-Thani, Prince Hammad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, two important figures of the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Muhammad bin Nayef, Prince Saud bin Fahd bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud, the late King Fahd’s wife Al Jawhara bint Ibrahim Al Ibrahim.


Renowned singers Madonna and Bono also make the list. Social media giants Twitter and Facebook and over 100 multinational companies, including Apple, Uber, Nike and Botox-maker Allergan are also caught. Despite tight financial controls, 714 Indians also figured in the leaks.


Protests and probes have already started in other countries, but Pakistan is still mired in the Panama Leaks and its aftermath. It is also noteworthy that no one in the world has rejected the leaks while former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ministers still call the Panama leaks a conspiracy against him and Pakistan. He has been disqualified, but still faces cases. The rest of the accused named in the Panama Papers have not been touched. Nawaz Sharif would have not been punished if PTI Chairman Imran Khan had not launched a protest movement for months, which forced the Supreme Court to take up the issue. The government and its institutions are not interested in action against the accused named in both leaks. In this situation, the Supreme Court should form a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe all accused named in the Panama and Paradise Papers. Otherwise, action against the Sharif family could not be justified.