The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists or ICIJ has released 11.9 million leaked Pandora papers to expose the “financial secrecy” of world leaders and others in the seventh and biggest ever leak so far and one that is expected to outdo the 2016 Panama Papers and 2010 WikiLeaks of US diplomatic cables.
This massive reporting effort brought together more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries across the globe. One of the ICIJ’s members from Pakistan is The News investigative journalist Umar Cheema.
Pakistani names in the Pandora Papers
The names of at least 700 Pakistanis are said to be on the Pandora Papers.
The names of retired military officials, politicians, and businessmen from Pakistan are in the Pandora Papers.
Those named included:
- Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin, federal minister finance
- Moonis Elahi, federal minister water resources
- Sharjeel Memon of PPP
- Punjab’s senior minister Abdul Aleem Khan
- Abdullah Masood, son of former adviser to PM for finance and revenue Waqar Masood Khan
- Ali Dar son of Ishaq Dar’s son
- Senator Faisal Vawda
- Omer Bakhtyar, the brother of Federal Minister Khusro Bakhtyar
- Adnan Afridi, MD National Investment Trust
- Ali Jahangir Siddiqui
- Arif Naqvi
- Arif Shafi, businessman
- Arif Usmani, president National Bank
- Asif Hafeez, merchant
- Bashir Dawood, trader
- Munir Shaikh, Din Group
- M. Wasim of Ibrahim Fibres
- Khalid Adamjee
- Family of Khusro Bakhtiar,
- Mohammad Ali Tabba
- Naveed Maghis Sheikh, sugar mill owner
- Shahnaz Sajjad Ahmad, daughter of a retired lieutenant general
- Shoaib Sheikh, Axact CEO
- Tariq Saeed Saigol
- Tariq Shafi, a leading businessman
If the company is declared and not used for any illegal transaction then the act of making such a company is not illegal.
International leaders whose names are in the Pandora Papers include:
- Shah Abdullah of Jordan
- Tony Blair, former prime minister of the UK
- Qatar’s ruler
- Leaders of Ukraine, Kenya, and the Czech Republic
Military men and families in Pandora Papers
- Pervez Musharraf’s former military secretary Lt Gen (retd) Shafatullah Shah. He bought a London apartment.
- ISI former DG for counter terrorism Major Gen Nusrat Naeem has an offshore company in his name. He said his friend made it, but he never used it. He never declined it existed. This happened after his retirement in 2009.
- NLC former DG Lt Gen Afzal Muzaffar’s son Hasan Muzaffar has a company.
- Lt Col (R) Raja Nadir Pervez
- Ahad Khattak, son of the former Air Chief Marshal Abbas Khattak
- Umar Khattak, son of the former Air Chief Marshal Abbas Khattak
- Ahsan Latif, son-in-law of retired Gen Khalid Maqbool
- Zahra Tanvir, wife of Lt Gen (R) Tanvir Tahir
‘Pakistani general’s wife bought London apartment from Indian movie director’s son’
Journalists working on the Pandora Papers claim that the leaked documents provide “a rare window” to the personal finance of Pakistani generals.
They reveal that wife of a three-star general purchased a London apartment from the son of an Indian movie director.
What about other names in Pandora Papers?
Of the 700 Pakistanis named in Pandora Papers only 7 are active politicians, reveals an ICIJ summary of the leaked data.
The documents also reveal key information about money laundering, fraudsters, and drug dealers.
PM announces every name will be investigated
Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that every name in the Pandra Paper from Pakistan will be investigated.
He said action would be taken against whoever is found guilty.
We welcome the Pandora Papers exposing the ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion & corruption & laundered out to financial “havens”. The UN SG’s Panel FACTI calculated a staggering $7 trillion in stolen assets parked in largely offshore tax havens.
My over-two decades struggle has been premised on the belief that countries are not poor but corruption causes poverty because money is diverted from being invested in our people. Also, this resource-theft causes devaluation, leading to thousands of poverty-related deaths.
Just like the East India Company plundered the wealth of India, ruling elites of developing world are doing the same. Unfortunately, the rich states are neither interested in preventing this large-scale plunder nor in repatriating this looted money.
My govt will investigate all our citizens mentioned in the Pandora Papers & if any wrongdoing is established we will take appropriate action. I call on the international community to treat this grave injustice as similar to the climate change crisis.
If unchecked, inequalities between rich & poor states will increase as poverty rises in the latter. This in turn will lead to a flood of economic migration from the poor to the rich states, causing further economic & social instability across the globe.
Umer Cheema About Working on Pandora Papers
Umar Cheema said it was a long process spanning over two years and took a lot of patience. He says some people named in the Pandora Papers tried to preempt the leaks by giving the news earlier.
“During that time we investigated these people, studied each document. We saw if they were in cases abroad. These are more than Panama that had 400 names,” he said.
“We did not let anyone know we were working on this. We selected journalists with integrity,” added Cheema.
Explaining how people named in the Pandora Papers were contacted by journalists to corroborate facts, Cheema said, “We didn’t just call them. We sent them questions. If someone declined to give us their email address. We WhatsApped them. Some people blocked us on WhatsApp when we contacted them. Some people just put the phone down on us. But the responsibility is ours to ensure they are the right person. We emailed people. Some people tried to preempt us. Some people tried to defend themselves ahead of time.”
Commenting about the two offshore companies registered by Fareeduddin Khan Barki using Zaman Park Lahore address which is also the address of Imran Khan’s residence, Cheema said “this is interesting. At our own level, when we asked around. The PM’s spokesperson was sent questions by the ICIJ. I spoke to Fareedudin Khan. We thought there might be more than one Zaman Park address. But the way they did this peshbandi (preemption), tried to give the news earlier. Then statements came out that it was something else. I don’t know why such defensive statements needed to be made.”
Making an offshore company is not a sin: tax expert
“If some remittance went from here for investment, there is no” Ashfaq Tola on GEO TV. “You must have evidence that you are showing it in your tax returns. And the investment source is clear. If you are a holder of public office and your returns are sent to the ECP annually it is important to say where you have companies.”
You will recall, he said, the UK government promised that it would always give details of such offshore companies. But it hasn’t.
Why do they not declare these assets when they know?
If you know you have to declare offshore companies, then how come so many people did not and became ministers etc in Pakistan?
Umar Cheema said it was unfortunate that accountability is selective. “It is to target rivals and remove them,” he said. “As you know, people built their careers on Panama Papers. But others became part of propaganda. Because PM Nawaz Sharif’s children’s names were on them, they are khandaan e awal (the first family)… but later it turned out that the way it unfolded, it was business as usual for others.”
Even the FBR whose responsibility it was, woke up for a bit and then went to sleep again, he said. The Supreme Court also gave remarks to this effect. People were sent notices. Whoever answered, they did not even bother investigating. “As a journalist I can’t demand but NAB, FBR are silent,” he said. “Look at Khusro Bakhtiar and family, NAB asked questions and did the work but you would not know otherwise. People are arrested at the lower level. But nothing has happened in this investigation.”
Faisal Vawda had to leave office because of dual citizenship he did not ostensibly declare. Now his offshore company has surfaced.
Umar Cheem said: The unfortunate thing is that Faisal Vawda is in a way an example of la qanooniat (lawlessness). How his things came to the fore, his dual citizenship, the ECP didn’t do much. Then we saw him resign and become a senator. And Khan sahib who is a big champion of anti-corruption, was not at all worried about those in the inner circle. They were focusing on the Opposition. But Faisal Vawda is still strutting around. Fakhar Durrani sent him questions. I can’t even repeat the answer he sent them. It just goes to show he knew that no action would ever be taken against him.
Moonis Elahi and Shoaib Shaikh
According to Umar Cheema, Moonis Elahi opened a trust abroad and a fund. The source of funding was land sale in Pakistan.
There are service providers who make the link between the client and the offshore companies, explained Umar Cheema . They are also on the radar this time because these people help without doing background checks. “If there were genuine people [opening offshore companies] it would not be news,” he said. “Drug smugglers are also doing it. Like Shoaib Shaikh’s company, the fake degree company, that internationally took money from people, he had opened a bank account for that through that offshore company. When in 2015 the scandal surfaced, his offshore company still operated.”
Sharjeel Inam Memon
Sharjeel Memon has three companies in the British Virgin Islands which he uses to buy properties abroad. He wanted to invest abroad in real estate.
Ali Dar is in the UAE, Dubai. He has two companies. He said that after he studied in London he went to Dubai where he has lived for 20 years. He is not a tax resident of Pakistan. If you live abroad 90 or 120 days, you don’t need to file tax returns in Pakistan, said Cheema. He didn’t need to declare in Pakistan. He said they made these companies but they have ended.
“Aleem Khan’s company was mentioned in the Panama Papers,” said Umar Cheema. “At that time we had asked him and he said he had declared them. I think he had eight or ten. It wasn’t clear if they were in the British Virgin Islands. The record we have acquired now, is that this company has London properties.”
Aleem Khan also took to Twitter to clarify that his company had been declared in all his assets declarations.
Mir Shakil ur Rehman of Jang Group
According to Umar Cheema, Mir Shakil ur Rehman has offshore companies. He said they closed in 2018. He declared it then. So then he did not need to be questioned. The reporters said that if they don’t name him, it would not be right for them to name other people.
“He was convinced and he gave his name and I think that has to be appreciated,” said Cheema.
Shaukat Tarin speaks about offshore company
Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has explained his offshore company to the media. He said that Saudi businessman Tariq bin Laden showed interest in investing, and so he had acquired permission from the State Bank of Pakistan to open his offshore company. Additionally, these companies were part of his declared assets from 2008 onwards.
“We were raising money. The company was indeed opened. But its accounts were not and neither were any transactions done,” Tarin told SAMAA TV earlier.
“It is Tariq bin Laden’s company Middle East Developers Ltd, Dubai. He had said, ‘We want to put this money in’. … But then there was some bomb blast in Karachi and his interest ended. Those companies were shut then as well. They were for a legitimate purpose and they had SBP approval to bring in that investment. They are absolutely declared. It has nothing to do with how typical offshore companies are opened, in which tax money is put.”
Shaukat Tareen also tweeted about it.
Tariq Fawad Malik and Shaukat Tarin’s link
Umar Cheema said that Malik’s name has surfaced as Shaukat Tarin gave his address in Dubai for his companies. He is a Karachi resident. The explanation he gave to the ICIJ questionnaire was that because he was a retired air force officer’s son, and Shaukat Tarin is also a retired army officer’s son, they had a relationship. He wanted to do business with a Saudi bank but because the situation grew unfavourable they withdrew and the companies grew dormant. He is known because he was Broadsheet’s representative in Pakistan.
PML-N demands vote of confidence
Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz demanded that the president order the Prime Minister to take a vote of confidence in view of the Pandora Papers.
PMLN’s Ahsan Iqbal said even before the Pandora Papers came out, the government spokespersons were offering explanations which is an indication that the thief had a straw in his beard.
Ahsan Iqbal said that two more offshore companies of ‘Sadiq and Amin’ have come to the fore, and he also hid the gifts.
He said there is no justification for Imran Khan to remain in power. Ahsan also claimed the ruling party members no longer have trust in the PM.
‘Pandora Papers to strengthen Imran Khan’s narrative’
The Pandora Papers will strengthen Prime Minister Imran Khan’s narrative against corruption, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Sunday afternoon before their release.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the PM Shahbaz Gill reacted to rumours that offshore companies or accounts linked with Imran Khan had been discovered in the Pandora Papers.