Paradise Papers: Former PM Shaukat Aziz features in ICIJ’s latest expose’

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  • Latest files disclose offshore tax haven secrets of ultra-rich 

LONDON/ISLAMABAD: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Sunday released a trove of around 13.4 million documents, revealing over 25,000 companies owned by the world’s ultra-rich and influential individuals.

The latest files –Paradise Papers – have disclosed the financial details of politicians, corporations, and celebrities among others, and comprises a major part of documents leaked by the company Appleby.

The documents — obtained by a German newspaper from two companies in Singapore and Bermuda — have made public the data of over 25,000 companies owned by individuals from 180 countries, from 1950 to 2016. Around 381 investigative journalists from 67 countries worked extensively to bring these facts before the people.

PAKISTANIS NAMED IN PARADISE PAPERS

Shaukat Aziz: Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz was found linked with Antarctic Trust. The trust set up by him whose beneficiaries include Aziz’s wife, their children and granddaughter. Aziz had set up the trust in Delaware (USA) before becoming finance minister. Interestingly, the trust was neither declared 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, and was appointed as finance minister in 1999. Aziz settled abroad after his tenure came to an end in 2007.

Ayaz Khan Niazi: Moreover, former National Insurance Corporation Limited 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. All the three companies were set up in 2010 when Niazi was the chairperson of National Insurance Corporation Limited. 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.

WORLD LEADERS NAMED IN PARADISE PAPERS

Queen Elizabeth II: Queen Elizabeth II has invested millions of dollars in medical and consumer loan companies, Appleby’s files show. While the Queen’s personal estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, provides some details of its investments in UK property, such as commercial buildings scattered across southern England, it has never disclosed details of its offshore investments.

The records show that as of 2007, the queen’s personal estate invested in a Cayman Islands fund that in turn invested in a private equity company that controlled BrightHouse, a UK rent-to-own firm criticised by consumer watchdogs and members of Parliament for selling household goods to cash-strapped Britons on payment plans with interest rates as high as 99.9 percent.

Queen Noor of Jordan: Other royals and politicians with newly disclosed offshore ties include Queen Noor of Jordan, who was listed as the beneficiary of two trusts on the island of Jersey, including one that held her sprawling British estate. Wesley Clark, a one-time Democratic presidential hopeful and a retired four-star US Army general who served as NATO’s supreme commander in Europe, was a director of an online gambling company with offshore subsidiaries, the files show.

Madonna and Bono: The Paradise Papers also reveal Madonna’s shares in a medical supplies company. Pop singer and social justice activist Bono – listed under his full name, Paul Hewson – owned shares in a company registered in Malta that invested in a shopping centre in Lithuania, company records show.

Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: The Appleby files show how Wilbur Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, has used a chain of Cayman Islands entities to maintain a financial stake in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company whose top clients include the Kremlin-linked energy firm Sibur. Among Sibur’s key owners are Kirill Shamalov, Russian President Putin’s son-in-law, and Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire the US government sanctioned in 2014 because of his links to Putin. Sibur is a major customer of Navigator, paying the company more than $23 million in 2016.

WHERE DOES THE LEAK COME FROM?

Most of the data comes from a company called Appleby, a Bermuda-based legal services provider at the top end of the offshore industry, helping clients set up in overseas jurisdictions with low or zero tax rates.

Its documents and others mainly from corporate registries in Caribbean jurisdictions were obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung. It has not revealed the source.

The media partners say the investigation is in the public interest because data leaks from the world of offshore have repeatedly exposed wrongdoing.

In response to the leaks, Appleby said it was “satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients”, adding: “We do not tolerate the illegal behaviour.”

PANAMA PAPERS

In 2016, the ICIJ released some 11.5 million documents leaked from the database of a Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, exposing politicians, celebrities, businessmen and criminals who had set up offshore companies.

The documents included names of dozens of world rulers including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Iceland’s PM Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Syrian president and Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif.

1 COMMENT

  1. Capitalism is a curse, which is brazenly destroying all human values of love, empathy and equitably shared prosperity and happiness. It is only the ones with stacks of printed paper whose privilege it is to be happy, leading luxurious lives. Does any religion, social or moral philosophy permit such a wide chasm between the rich and the poor, that is the result of the abhorrence called Capitalism.

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