International

Pandora Papers: Will investigate all citizens mentioned in leaks, says Pak PM Imran

By PTI

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his government will investigate all citizens mentioned in Pandora Letter, More than 700 Pakistanis, including some ministers and prominent members of their inner circle, were listed in the leak, following an investigation that uncovered financial secrets kept by high-profile individuals around the world.

Khan unveiled the “Pandora Papers” in a statement issued by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a leading international research on the financial secrets of high-profile individuals around the world, in a statement released late on Sunday.

According to the leak, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Water Resources Minister Moonis Elahi, Senator Faisal Vavda, Industry and Production Minister Khusro Bakhtiar’s family, among others, had links with foreign companies.

Prime Minister Khan welcomed the Pandora Papers, which exposed the illicit wealth of elites accumulated through tax evasion and corruption and laundered financial ‘heavens’.

“My government will investigate all our citizens mentioned in the Pandora papers and if any wrongdoing is found, we will take appropriate action. I call on the international community to treat this grave injustice as a climate change crisis,” he said.

He said that just as the East India Company plundered the wealth of India, the ruling elite of developing countries were also doing the same.

“Unfortunately, the rich states are neither interested in stopping this massive loot nor in bringing back this looted money,” Khan said.

He said the UN Secretary-General’s Panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) calculated USD 7 trillion in stolen assets parked largely in offshore tax havens.

Khan said that his “fight for over two decades is based on the belief that countries are not poor but that corruption causes poverty because money is diverted from investing in our people”.

This resource-stealing causes devaluation, leading to thousands of poverty-related deaths, he said, adding that if unchecked, the disparity between rich and poor states will increase as poverty increases in the latter.

“This in turn will result in a flood of economic migration from poor to rich states, leading to economic and social instability around the world,” Khan said.

The Pandora Papers have also included some retired Pakistani Army officers, businessmen – including Exact CEO Shoaib Sheikh – and the owner of the media company.

According to a report in Geo News, the leaked documents revealed that “key members of Prime Minister Khan’s inner circle”, including cabinet ministers, his family and prominent financial backers, “secretly owned several companies and trusts”. who have millions of dollars in hidden wealth”.

More than 600 journalists from around the world belonging to 150 media organizations spread across 117 countries participated in two years of research for the Pandora Papers, which contains 11.9 million files containing 2.94 terabytes of confidential information.

Pakistani investigative reporter Umar Cheema, who was part of the investigation along with fellow journalist, Fakhar Durrani, shared the details with Geo News. Both the journalists are associated with The News newspaper owned by Jung Group, which also owns Geo News.

Giving details of the difficulties being faced in contacting the people named in the investigation, Cheema said that earlier written questions were sent. Some were contacted over phone, who would hang up if told about the investigation, some refused to give their email addresses, others were also contacted via WhatsApp.

It should be noted that setting up and declaring an offshore company that is not involved in any illegal practices is permitted by law.

Speaking about Prime Minister Khan’s Lahore residence, 2 Zaman Park, he said the ICIJ, the Washington DC-based non-profit newsroom and journalists network that conducted the investigation, sent questions to the Prime Minister’s spokesperson.

It took ICIJ nearly two years to organize the investigation involving more than 600 journalists from 117 countries, making it the largest journalism partnership ever. By comparison, for the Panama Papers, about 400 journalists from 80 countries participated in the investigation.

The Pandora Papers leak will reveal the financial secrets of more politicians and public officials than the Panama Papers and provide more than twice as much information about the ownership of offshore companies, the report suggests.

The Panama Papers were based on data from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm that revealed the offshore holdings of 140 politicians, public offshore and sports stars. Those documents were obtained by the German newspaper, the Sudeutsche Zeitung, which included records from 40 years earlier.

The Pandora Papers investigation is larger in size and the revelations about politicians and public officials are even greater than those previously brought to public attention.

More than 400 people from Pakistan appeared in the Panama Papers, including the family members of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In July 2017, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Sharif, disqualifying him from office in the Panamagate scandal.

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