Imran Khan orders probe as 'Pandora Papers' expose offshore assets of leaders

Imran Khan. — AP file photo
Imran Khan. — AP file photo

Washington - Investigation says Pakistani ministers, families own companies and trusts holding millions of dollars.


Published: Sun 3 Oct 2021, 11:23 PM

Last updated: Mon 4 Oct 2021, 12:07 AM

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced an investigation on Sunday as an investigation alleged politicians including his ministers have hidden millions in offshore tax havens.

The investigation published on Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) featured some 35 current and former leaders in the documents analysed — facing allegations ranging from corruption to money laundering and global tax avoidance.

It included Members of Imran Khan's inner circle, including cabinet ministers and their families, who are said to secretly own companies and trusts holding millions of dollars.

“My govt will investigate all our citizens mentioned in the Pandora Papers & if any wrongdoing is established, we will take appropriate action. I call on the international community to treat this grave injustice as similar to the climate change crisis,” Khan said in a series of tweets.

“We welcome the Pandora Papers exposing the ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion & corruption & laundered out to financial "havens". The UN SG's Panel FACTI calculated a staggering $7 trillion in stolen assets parked in largely offshore tax havens.

“If unchecked, inequalities between rich & poor states will increase as poverty rises in the latter. This in turn will lead to a flood of economic migration from the poor to the rich states, causing further economic & social instability across the globe,” Khan said.

The "Pandora Papers" investigation —involving some 600 journalists from media including The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian — is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.

The documents said Jordan’s King Abdullah II created a network of offshore companies and tax havens to amass a $100 million property empire from Malibu, California to Washington and London.

The BBC cited lawyers for King Abdullah saying all the properties were bought with personal wealth, and that it was common practice for high profile individuals to purchase properties via offshore companies for privacy and security reasons.

The documents also show Czech Prime minister Andrej Babis — facing an election later this week — failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase a chateau worth $22 million in the south of France.

In total, the ICIJ found links between almost 1,000 companies in offshore havens and 336 high-level politicians and public officials, including country leaders, cabinet ministers, ambassadors and others.

More than two-thirds of the companies were set up in the British Virgin Islands.

In most countries, the ICIJ stresses, it is not illegal to have assets offshore or to use shell companies to do business across national borders.

But such revelations are no less of an embarrassment for leaders who may have campaigned publicly against corruption, or advocated austerity measures at home.

Among the other revelations from the ICIJ investigation:

— Family and associates of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are alleged to have been secretly involved in property deals in Britain worth hundreds of millions.

— Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and six family members are alleged to secretly own a network of offshore companies.

— Russian President Vladimir Putin is not directly named in the files, but he is linked via associates to secret assets in Monaco.

The "Pandora Papers" are the latest in a series of mass ICIJ leaks of financial documents that started with LuxLeaks in 2014, and was followed by the Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers and FinCen.

The documents behind the latest investigation are drawn from financial services companies in countries including the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, Singapore and Switzerland.

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