In what’s being hailed as the most extensive data journalism leak in the history of news, over 11.5 million documents and 2.6 Terabytes of data has been leaked from the databases of Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm. The data shows how the world’s richest celebrities, politicians and businessmen use offshore havens to avoid taxation.
The ‘Panama Papers’ were obtained from an anonymous source by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and were shared subsequently with other news outlets by the the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
They show details about 14,000 clients (including politicians, celebrities, sportsmen etc.) and 214,000 companies registered for the purpose of evading taxes.
Technically, there’s nothing illegal about using offshore firms but serious questions are going to be raised regarding the ethics of using these companies for tax evasion.
In various markets, including the USA, setting up an offshore firm for the sole purpose of evading tax is illegal.
Pakistani Politicians and Businessmen Named in Panama Papers:
According to The News, the following people are involved in using offshore tax havens.
- Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family
- Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s relatives
- Benazir Bhutto
- Javed Pasha
- Senator Rehman Malik
- Senator Osman Saifullah’s family
- Waseem Gulzar (a relative of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat)
- Zain Sukhera, who was co-accused with former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s son in the Haj scandal
- Hotel tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani
- Real estate czar Malik Riaz Hussain’s son
- Hussain Dawood family
- Abdullah family of Sapphire Textiles
- Gul Muhammad Tabba of Lucky Textiles
- Shahid Nazir of Masood Textiles
- Zulfiqar Ali Lakhani
- Zulfiqar Paracha.
- Justice Farrukh Irfan
- Retired judge Malik Qayyum
- Owner of Hilton Pharma, Shehbaz Yasin Malik
- Chairman ABM Group of Companies Azam Sultan
- Pizza Hut owner Aqeel Hussain
- Chairman Soorty Enterprise Abdul Rashid Soorty
Some highlights from the Panama Papers are:
- Nawaz Sharif is among the national leaders who have wealth stored offshore
- Hasan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz are also among those who allegedly setup offshore companies to evade tax
- Other notable leaders implicated in the papers are Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq, Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine, Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; and the current prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.
- 12 national leaders and 143 politicians along with families and their close associates are using offshore tax havens.
- Members of the House of Lords, former MPs and donors to UK’s political parties have wealth stored abroad.
- Individuals who are sanctioned for supporting oppressive regimes and dictatorships around the world have accounts with the company.
- A leaked memo from a Mossack Fonseca partner said: “Ninety-five per cent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes.”
While the company has denied all allegations, over 370 journalists from 100 news organizations have spent one year on verifying the documents.
A global summit of world leaders on the topic of tax havens is set to be conducted next month. It’s going to be interesting to see how it fares with many participants and their associates guilty of evading tax through offshore companies.
We should mention that this trove of documents is more extensive than the Wikileaks and Snowden revelations. As time passes and more of them are verified, we will get further insights into the wrongdoings of the rich and famous in the world, including our very own political leadership.