According to Transparency International UK, the disqualification over corruption allegations of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must instigate immediate action by UK authorities to act on his UK-based assets.
Nawaz Sharif was found to be “no longer eligible to be an honest member of the parliament” by Pakistan’s supreme court, following revelations in the Panama Papers that he and his family had used anonymous offshore companies to purchase assets abroad, including four properties in Park Lane London.
The UK authorities must immediately work to establish whether the Sharif family still owns those four properties, and consider seizure proceedings if this is found to be the case and these were purchased from the proceeds of crime. These properties are still held by the two companies that the Panama Papers revealed to be owned by close relatives of Nawaz Sharif; however, due to a lack of transparency over the true owners of offshore companies, it is impossible to know whether the Sharif family still controls these companies.
At the London Anti-Corruption Summit in May 2016, the UK pledged to introduce a register of beneficial ownership of foreign companies that would reveal who truly owns the companies buying property in the UK. According to the government’s own timeline, primary legislation for this should be introduced this year, but no commitment has yet been made to include this in the programme outlined in the Queen’s Speech.
Policy Transparency International UK Director Duncan Hames said:
“It should not take a leak like the Panama Papers for us to know who is buying property in the UK. Allowing corrupt individuals to discreetly stash illicit cash in UK property hurts people in the societies they have stolen from and also contributes to the housing crisis here in the UK.”
“The government has repeatedly committed to introducing a register of the real owners of overseas companies that own property here, so it’s high-time those words were turned into action. The need to act is well illustrated by the case of London property connected to Nawaz Sharif.”
“Knowing who owns UK property is the first step to being able to seize and eventually return assets to the people from whom they have been stolen. Until the government brings in all the necessary tools to do this, our country will remain a safe haven for dirty money from around the world.”