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PTI govt bigwigs, allies among over 700 Pakistanis named in ICIJ’s Pandora Papers

The exposé named Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Senator Faisal Vawda, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, Ishaq Dar’s son, PPP’s Sharjeel Memon, the family of Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiar, PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan, Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh, ​among others, among those with alleged links to offshore companies.

Geo News reported that more than 700 Pakistanis in total have been named in the investigation.

From Pakistan, investigative journalists Umar Cheema and Fakhar Durrani of The News International were part of the research. The consortium released a report on the Pandora Papers titled “Prime Minister Imran Khan promised ‘new Pakistan’ but members of his inner circle secretly moved millions offshore.”

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”.

“Military leaders have been implicated as well,” it said, clarifying that the documents contained “no suggestion” that Imran himself owned 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,” the ICIJ said.

Naqvi, the financier and major donor to Prime Minister Imran’s 2013 election campaign, owned several offshore companies. The files show that in 2017, Naqvi transferred ownership of UK holdings – three luxury apartments, his country estate and property in London’s suburbs – into an offshore trust operated by Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank declined to respond to ICIJ’s questions concerning the beneficiaries of the trust.

The next year, he presided over the spectacular collapse of his Dubai-based private equity firm, Abraaj Group, which also owns K-Electric.

US prosecutors charged Naqvi with engineering a $400 million fraud against Abraaj investors and this year persuaded a court to allow his extradition from the UK. Naqvi has denied wrongdoing.

According to the investigation’s findings, Finance Minister Tarin and his family members own four offshore companies. It quoted Tariq Fawad Malik, a financial consultant who handled the paperwork for the companies, as saying that they were set up as part of the Tarin family’s intended investment in a bank with a Saudi business.

“As a mandatory prerequisite by [the] regulator, we engaged with the Central Bank of Pakistan to obtain their ’in-principle’ approval for the said strategic investment,” Malik said. The deal did not proceed.

Tarin didn’t respond to ICIJ’s questions, but in a statement issued today, he said: “The off-shore companies mentioned were incorporated as part of the fund raising process for my Bank.”

Meanwhile, Omer Bakhtiar, the brother of federal industries minister Khusro Bakhtiar, transferred a $1 million apartment in London’s Chelsea area to his elderly mother through an offshore company in 2018, according to the ICIJ.

In a written statement to the consortium, Khusro said a Pakistani anti-corruption agency’s investigation against his family “was founded on baseless allegations which had underestimated his family’s past wealth”, and that it had so far not resulted in a formal complaint.

Former minister for water resources Faisal Vawda set up an offshore company in 2012 to invest in UK properties, the Pandora Papers show. The now-senator told the ICIJ that he had declared all foreign assets held in his name to tax authorities.

The exposé further revealed that the son of former finance adviser to the prime minister Waqar Masood Khan co-owned a company based in the British Virgin Islands. Khan told the ICIJ that he did not know what his son’s company did and that his son lived a “modest life”, and was not his dependent.

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