The startling revelations in the Panama Papers about the hidden assets of top politicians and businessmen have evoked a global response; as calls have been made for probe into the allegations made in the leaks.
International watchdog, Transparency International on Monday called for immediate action by world leaders to stop secret companies.
“A global investigation into the use of secret companies by the rich, powerful and corrupt has shown how a network of lawyers, bankers and others around the world hide illicit wealth. Transparency International calls on the international community to act immediately to outlaw secret companies,” a statement issued from TI’s headquarters in Berlin said on Monday.
Ahmer Bilal Sufi, a prominent expert on international law, told Pakistan Today that the information exposed needs a thorough probe to establish whether or not the proceeds under offshore companies were legal or if they involved illegal money laundering.
“Under international law, forming an off-shore company in a state where tax concessions are offered is not a crime as offshore companies are formed under the laws of these tax havens in various countries.”
“However, if a company transfers money to avoid taxes accrued in the country where the income was generated through offshore accounts, then it becomes money laundering which is a crime,” Sufi said. He said that using the offshore companies for landed proceeds is a crime.
Advocate Majid Bashir, a senior expert on international law and an associate at ABS & Co, a noted corporate law firm in Pakistan, said it was yet to be established who caused the Panama leaks and whether the source could be trusted.
“We must verify the details of the property and assets owned by those implicated. The FBR, the Election Commission and the Income Tax department must form a joint commission to investigate the matter thoroughly, as only then will we be able to sift the reality from the hype that is being created. And as a rule, the off-shore companies are formed to complement the main business, as without the mother company, there’s no use having an offshore one,” he said.
Asked whether the Sharif family was involved in tax evasion under the law, Majid said per our law, if one has stayed outside the country for more than 180 days, there is no need to file an income tax return here and one may file his or her return in the country where they have stayed the most.
“We have to see whether the returns were filed or not and whether the companies where off-shore or main companies.”
In the meantime, we must see what our leaders have filed with the Election Commission and in their income tax returns,” he said.
Adil Gilani of Transparency International (TI) Pakistan said that off-shore companies are generally formed for tax evasion, transfer of illicit or corruption money and money laundering.
“If any money is transferred from a country to another other than through a banking system, it is called money laundering. The matter needs a thorough probe and TI-Pakistan has written a letter to the Supreme Court, NAB, FBR and FIA to investigate the allegations made by Panama Papers,” Gilani added.
PM SHOULD STEP DOWN, SAYS PTI:
Dr Arif Alvi demanded of the prime minister to immediately step down and said that a new premier must be elected.
“Under the sitting PM, no investigation is possible. A fair investigation is only possible once he steps down. The NAB has been compromised after the PM’s threat. A Supreme Court commission must be formed which should order NAB and FIA to investigate the matter,” he added.
He said that Maryam Nawaz’ assets are not mentioned in Captain (r) Safdar’s assets.
“Only a BMW car has been mentioned under Maryam’s assets which according to them was gifted by the Dubai ruler,” he said.
Salman Mujahid of the MQM said that the matter needs proper investigation so that all the allegations are probed. He said that the successive rulers have plundered the national wealth.
“Hussain Nawaz has admitted in media that he owns offshore companies which were formed to avoid paying taxes. Where did Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz get their money to open businesses abroad?” Mujahid questioned.