Panama leak reveals Sharif family’s offshore holdings

Islamabad, April 4 (IANS) A massive leak of secret files from a Panamanian law firm that specialises in offshore tax havens has revealed the often-murky financial dealings of some of the world’s most powerful political players.

The leak highlights people such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the family of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, among dozens of others, Dawn online reported.

The data from the Panama Papers, available on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — one of around 100 news organisations and 300 journalists that worked on mining the data simultaneously — also reveals the offshore holdings of the members of Sharif’s family.

According to the documents, Sharif’s children Mariam, Hasan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.

Mariam is described as “the owner of British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, incorporated in 1994 and 1993”.

On one of the documents, the address listed for Nielsen Enterprises is Saroor Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The document, dated June 2012, describes Mariam Safdar as the ‘beneficial owner’.

“Hussain and Mariam signed a document dated June 2007 that was part of a series of transactions in which Deutsche Bank Geneva lent up to $13.8 million to Nescoll, Nielsen and another company, with their London properties as collateral,” the papers revealed.

In July 2014, the two companies were transferred to another agent, it said.

Hasan Nawaz Sharif is described as “the sole director of Hangon Property Holdings Limited incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in February 2007, which acquired Liberia-based firm Cascon Holdings Establishment Limited for about $11.2 million in August 2007.”

But the papers are not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. According to The Guardian, using offshore structures is entirely legal.

“There are many legitimate reasons for doing so. Business people in countries such as Russia and Ukraine typically put their assets offshore to defend them from ‘raids’ by criminals, and to get around hard currency restrictions,” the paper said in an explanatory note.

Leaders such as the presidents of Ukraine, Argentina, the UAE as well as relatives of British Prime Minister David Cameron, Syrian leader Bashaar al-Assad, a former Chinese prime minister, as well as the son of former UN chief Kofi Anan are also mentioned in the leaked documents.

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