WASHINGTON DC (ICIJ): Based upon the most expansive leak of tax haven files in history, the investigation reveals the secret deals and hidden assets of more than 330 politicians and high-level public officials in more than 90 countries and territories, including 35 country leaders. The Pandora Papers lays bare the global entanglement of political power and secretive offshore finance.
ICIJ obtained more than 11.9 million financial records, containing 2.94 terabytes of confidential information from 14 offshore service providers, enterprises that set up and manage shell companies and trusts in tax havens around the globe. ICIJ shared the files with 150 media partners, launching the broadest collaboration in journalism history. For nearly two years, ICIJ organized and led an investigation that grew to encompass more than 600 journalists in 117 countries and territories.
The secret documents expose offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, the presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador, the prime minister of the Czech Republic and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The files also detail financial activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unofficial minister of propaganda” and more than 130 billionaires from Russia, the United States, Turkey and other nations. Ambassadors, mayors and ministers, presidential advisers, generals and a central bank governor appear in the files.
The leaked records reveal that many of the power players who could help bring an end to the offshore system instead benefit from it – stashing assets in covert companies and trusts while their governments do little to slow a global stream of illicit money that enriches criminals and impoverishes nations.
Prime Minister Imran Khan promised ‘new Pakistan’ but members of his inner circle secretly moved millions offshore.
Now leaked documents reveal that key members of Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers, their families and major financial backers have secretly owned an array of companies and trusts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth. Military leaders have been implicated as well. The documents contain no suggestion that Khan himself owns offshore companies.
Among those whose holdings have been exposed are Khan’s finance minister, Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin, and his family, and the son of Khan’s former adviser for finance and revenue, Waqar Masood Khan. The records also reveal the offshore dealings of a top PTI donor, Arif Naqvi, who is facing fraud charges in the United States.
The files show how Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, a key political ally of Imran Khan’s, planned to put the proceeds from an allegedly corrupt business deal into a secret trust, concealing them from Pakistan’s tax authorities. Elahi did not respond to ICIJ’s repeated requests for comment.
In one of several offshore holdings involving military leaders and their families, a luxury London apartment was transferred from the son of a famous Indian movie director to the wife of a three-star general. The general told ICIJ the property purchase was disclosed and proper; his wife didn’t reply.
The Pandora Papers reveal that in 2007, the wife of Gen. Shafaat Ullah Shah, then one of Pakistan’s leading generals and a former aide to President Pervez Musharraf, acquired a $1.2 million apartment in London through a discreet offshore transaction.
The property was transferred to Gen. Shah’s wife by an offshore company owned by Akbar Asif, a wealthy businessman who has opened restaurants in London and Dubai. Asif is the son of the Indian film director K Asif. The younger Asif once met with Musharraf at London’s Dorchester Hotel to ask for an exception to Pakistan’s 40-year ban on Indian films to allow the release there of one of his father’s most acclaimed movies. Mushar-raf granted the exception and later lifted the ban.
The leaked documents show that Asif has owned a multimillion-dollar property portfolio through a web of offshore companies.
One of those companies, called Talah Ltd. and registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), was used to transfer the London apartment to Shafaat Shah’s wi-fe. Talah bought an apartment near the Canary Wh-arf financial district in 20-06. The next year, Asif tra-nsferred ownership of the company to Fariha Shah.
Asif’s sister, Heena Kausar, is the widow of Iqbal Mirchi, a senior figure in a leading organised crime group, D-company. Mirchi was at the time under sanction as a drug trafficker by the U.S. Before his death in 2013, Mirchi was one of India’s most wanted men.
Gen. Shah told ICIJ that the purchase of the London apartment had been made through a former army colleague then acting as a consultant to London real esta-te firms, not through any p-ersonal connection to Asif. Gen. Shah said the flat “w-as named” to his wife beca-use “I already had properties in my name while she did not have any and to balance tax deductions.”
Shah said that his wife has never met Asif and that he met him just once, while an aide to Musharaff, when Asif briefly lobbied the president for his father’s film “in the corridors of Dorchester Hotel when he had accompanied the hairstylist, who had come to cut Mrs Musharraf’s hair.”
The Pandora Papers also reveal that Raja Nadir Pervez, a retired army lieutenant colonel and former government minister, owned International Finance & Equipment Ltd, a BVI-registered company. In the leaked files, the firm is involved in machinery and related businesses in India, Thailand, Russia and China. Records show that in 2003, Pervez transferred his shares in the company to a trust that controls several offshore companies.
One of the trust’s beneficiaries is a British arms dealer. According to U.K. court documents, one of the trust’s other companies has helped broker arms sales from Belgian manufacturer FN Herstal SA to Hindus-tan Aeronautics Ltd., a st-ate-owned Indian defense company. While he owned Interna-tional Finance & Equipm-ent, Pervez also held several high-level positions in Pakistan’s government. He was elected to the National Assembly in 1985 and later joined Khan’s party. Pervez did not respond to reporters’ questions. Another influential former military leader who shows up in the leaked documents is Maj. Gen. Nusrat Naeem. He owned a BVI company, Afghan Oil & Gas Ltd, that was registered in 2009, shortly after his retirement. He said that the company had been set up by a friend and that he didn’t use it for any financial transactions.
Islamabad police later charged Naeem with fraud related to the attempted purchase of a steel mill for $1.7 million. The case was dropped. The Pandora Papers also bring to light the notable offshore holdings of close relatives of three senior military figures. Umar and Ahad Khattak, sons of the former head of Pakistan’s air force, Abbas Khattak, in 2010 registered a BVI company to invest what documents call “family business earnings” in stocks, bonds, mut-ual funds and real estate. Other prominent persons include Senator Faisal Va-wda, former finance minister Ishaq Dar’s son, Shar-jeel Memon of Pakistan Peoples Party, the family of Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakh-tiar, Senior Minister of Punjab Abdul Aleem Khan.