Monday Nov 06 2017

Former PM Shaukat Aziz among 135 Pakistanis named in Paradise Papers


Names of several Pakistanis, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz among them, have surfaced in the new database of documents, Paradise Papers, released by the International Consortium of Journalists Sunday night.

The Paradise Papers reveal data of over 25,000 companies spanning 180 countries, from 1950 to 2016.

Around 381 investigative journalists from 67 countries worked extensively to bring facts about the Paradise Papers before the people. Senior News reporter and ICIJ member Umar Cheema was also part of the team which unearthed the Paradise Papers.

The leak, which includes 13.4 million documents, comprises a major part of documents leaked from company 'Appleby'. The documents were obtained from two companies in Singapore and Bermuda by a German newspaper and shared with the ICIJ.

Also read: ICIJ releases another database revealing offshore companies

According to a report in The News, as many as 135 Pakistani individuals with accounts in a Swiss bank were also identified which they either created in their own name or through offshore companies. 

Some of the prominent individuals: 

Former PM Shaukat Aziz 

Aziz was an employee of Citibank before becoming Pakistan's finance minister and then prime minister in General (retd) Pervez Musharraf's government. 

He was one of the shareholders and directors of Bahamas-registered Cititrust Limited from 1997 to 1999, along with other executives of the bank.

In 1999, Aziz was appointed finance minister and created the Antarctic Trust. The Antarctic Trust's beneficiaries include Aziz’s wife, their children and granddaughter.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (right) and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, are seen at a National Command Authority meeting in Rawalpindi, in this August 2, 2007 photo via Reuters/ISPR. 

Aziz had set up the trust in Delaware (USA) before becoming finance minister. Interestingly, the trust was neither declared to the tax and election authorities during his stint as finance minister nor as prime minister.

Speaking through his attorney in New York, Aziz said that he didn’t have to declare the trust in Pakistan as he was a settlor.

When asked if his wife or children declared the trust, he responded that they didn’t have to declare because they were beneficiaries, not the beneficial owners.

Aziz served as prime minister from August 28, 2004, to November 15, 2007.

Aziz settled abroad after his tenure came to an end in 2007.

NICL chairman Ayaz Khan Niazi

Moreover, former National Insurance Corporation Limited (NICL) chairperson Ayaz Khan Niazi has also been identified in the records in connection with four offshore holdings in the British Virgin Islands.

One of them was a trust, Andalusian Discretionary Trust, while the other three were set up as companies: Andalusian Establishment Limited, Andalusian Enterprises Limited and Andalusian Holdings Limited.

Ayaz Khan Niazi. Photo: File 

All the three companies were set up in 2010 when Niazi was the NICL chief. 

In the record, however, Niazi’s two brothers, Hussain Khan Niazi and Muhammad Ali Khan Niazi, were shown as the beneficial owners, whereas Ayaz along with his father Abdul Razaq Khan and mother Fauzia Razzaq acted as directors.

The NICL scandal, which made headlines in Pakistan during Niazi's tenure, pertained to financial embezzlement by Niazi, then commerce minister (late) Makhdoom Amin Fahim and several bureaucrats in purchase of official land. 

The case is yet to be decided. 

Businessman Sadruddin Hashwani

Sadruddin Hashwani, a leading business magnate in the hoteling and oil industry, owns one company in Barbodas and Cayman Islands each. They are: Bowenergy Resources (Pakistan) SRL and Ocean Pakistan Ltd.

Sadruddin Hashwani. Photo: File 

Documents show the companies were used for securing hefty loans from Standard Chartered situated in yet another offshore jurisdiction, Mauritius, as well as its branch in London.

The above two companies are in addition to a couple of other offshore holdings discovered through Panama Papers: North Atlantic Services Limited and Rushlake Hotels (USA) Inc., registered in British Virgin Islands.

Responding to The News’ questions, Hashwani said he had answered in detail the last year (when the companies were identified in Panama Papers) and there is nothing to add in case of the two newly discovered companies. As for loans from Standard Chartered from its Mauritius branch is concerned, it was a business loan and the charge was registered in favour of the bank with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) hence nothing is hidden.

Businessman Mian Mansha 

Mian Mansha. Photo: File 

Mian Muhammad Mansha, chairman of Nishat Group, has been linked with six offshore companies. Four of them are in British Virgin Islands: Mallen Securities Ltd, Maple Leaf Investments Ltd, Lyle Trading Ltd and Dolin International Limited. The remaining two are in Mauritius: Croft Limited and Best Eagles Holdings Inc. An account in a Swiss bank has also been found connected with these companies which dates back to 1994 and was in existence till 2007.

Responding to The News’ questions, Mansha said he had to move to the United States in the mid-1990s due to the adverse political situation in Pakistan. These bank accounts were meant to meet day-to-day living in that period. Finally, almost a decade ago, these accounts were liquidated and amounts repatriated to Pakistan through official channels and have been duly recorded in tax returns.

Alauddin Feerasta with other bank officials. Photo: File 

Alauddin J Feerasta

Alauddin J Feerasta, chairman of Soneri Bank, is the owner of Rangeworth Limited, a company registered in British Virgin Island, having an account in a Swiss bank. Nooruddin Feerasta, his nephew and chairman of Rupali Polyester Limited, also has a company set up in British Virgins Island with an account in Swiss Bank. Both of them did not answer questions sent by The News.

Disclaimer: It is pertinent to note here that not every offshore firm is necessarily illegal.

With input from Umar Cheema of The News.