ICIJ’s Pandora Papers names 700 Pakistanis with Offshore Companies

October 04, 2021

Imran Khan’s cabinet members, retired civilian and military officials and their families, and owners of some of the country’s top media outlets all own or have owned a slew of offshore companies and trusts worth millions of dollars.The revelations are part of the Pandora Papers, a new global investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and involving 600 journalists from all over the world. The investigation shines a light on the shadowy offshore financial system that allows multinational corporations, the wealthy, famous, and powerful to avoid taxes and hide their wealth in other ways. The investigation is based on more than 11.9 million confidential files leaked to the ICIJ from 14 offshore services firms.

According to the leaked documents, several members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet, as well as close family members, have offshore holdings in a variety of jurisdictions. Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and three of his family members, Minister for Industries and Production Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar’s younger brother Omer Shehryar, former federal minister Faisal Vawda and two other family members, Federal Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi, Senior Provincial Minister for Food Abdul Aziz have all had their offshore holdings exposed in the Pandora Papers.The Pandora Papers have revealed some top retired military leaders who had kept their holdings offshore, in addition to civilian leadership. A former corps commander’s wife and son, Lt Gen (retd) Muhammad Afzal Muzaffar’s son, Major General (retd) Nusrat Naeem, Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Maqbool’s son-in-law, Lt-Gen (retd) Tanvir Tahir’s wife, Air Chief Marshal Abbas Khattak’s sons, and retired army officer and politician Raja Nadir Pervez.

The leaked documents also revealed the names of Pakistani media moguls who owned offshore companies, in addition to civilian and military leaders. Publisher of the Jang group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, CEO of the Dawn media group Hamid Haroon, Publisher of the Express Media Group Sultan Ahmed Lakhani, the Gourmet Group, which also owns a TV channel GNN, and the late Arif Nizami, publisher of Pakistan Today, are among the media owners who held offshore companies.Moreover, former finance minister Ishaq Dar’s son, Ali Dar, Sindh’s former information minister Sharjeel Inam Memon and former chairman FBR and Secretary Finance Salman Siddiq’s son Yawar Salman owned companies in the tax havens.

The Panama Papers have revealed how the civilian and military elites have hidden their assets and purchased luxurious properties abroad through offshore companies. The majority of those named in the Pandora Papers have either distanced themselves from these companies or labelled them as “dormant,” citing the fact that their family members work independently.Although offshore companies can be used for legal purposes, tax havens are of great public interest because they are frequently used for money laundering, tax evasion, and other illegal activities.

However, it is unknown how many of the above-mentioned names have reported their offshore holdings to Pakistani tax authorities.Prime Minister Imran Khan waged a vigorous campaign against the country’s political elite’s corruption before ascending to power. He promised that accountability would begin with him and extend all the way down to his ministers. Khan described the Panama Papers, which implicated former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, as a “God-sent gift” in 2016.The revelations in the Pandora Papers, which include the names of some prominent and key figures in Khan’s cabinet, will serve as a litmus test for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s efforts to hold his close associates accountable for holding offshore companies.

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