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Pakistani generals use offshore accounts to get rich

New Delhi (IANS): The window into the personal finances of individual Pakistani generals is particularly rare and provides insight into how senior military officers – known in Pakistan as the “establishment” – are using the offshore system to get rich. quietly while preserving, until now, the image of the army as a bulwark against civil corruption.

The revelations are part of the Pandora Papers, a new global investigation into the dark offshore financial system that allows multinational corporations, the rich, famous and powerful to avoid taxes and otherwise protect their wealth. The investigation is based on more than 11.9 million confidential files from 14 offshore service companies disclosed to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with 150 news agencies around the world.

The Pandora Papers investigation exposes the civilian government and military leaders who have hidden vast amounts of wealth in a country plagued by widespread poverty and tax evasion.

One of the legacies of colonial rule is the wealth of the military. The combined commercial holdings of the military make up Pakistan’s largest conglomerate, and it controls 12% of the country’s land. Most land holdings are owned by current or former rulers.

The Pandora Papers reveal that in 2007, the wife of General Shafaat Ullah Shah, then a leading Pakistani generals and former aide to President Pervez Musharraf, purchased a $ 1.2 million apartment in London with a discreet offshore transaction.

In one of the many offshore operations involving military leaders and their families, a luxury London apartment has been transferred from the son of a famous Indian director to the wife of a three-star general. The general told the ICIJ that the purchase of the property had been disclosed and appropriate; his wife did not answer.

Ownership was transferred to General 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 Indian director K. Asif.

Asif’s sister, Heena Kausar, is the widow of Iqbal Mirchi, a senior official at prominent organized crime group D-company. Mirchi was at the time under sanction as a drug dealer by the United States. Before his death in 2013, Mirchi was one of the most wanted men in India.

Young Asif met Musharraf at the Dorchester Hotel in London to request a waiver of Pakistan’s 40-year ban on Indian films to allow the release of one of his father’s most acclaimed films. . Musharraf granted the exception and later lifted the ban.

Leaked documents show Asif owned a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio through a network of offshore companies.

One of these companies, called Talah Ltd. and registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), was used to transfer the London apartment to Shafaat Shah’s wife. Talah bought an apartment near the Canary Wharf financial district in 2006. The following year Asif transferred ownership of the business to Fariha Shah.

Shah said his wife had never met Asif and had only met him once, while he was Musharaff’s assistant, when Asif briefly pressured the president for his film. father “in the corridors of the Dorchester hotel while he had accompanied the hairdresser, who had come to cut Mrs. Musharraf’s hair”.

The ICIJ has revealed that information on the private wealth of top military officers and their families is extremely scarce; journalists who wrote about the military in Pakistan have been jailed, tortured and killed.

The Pandora Papers also reveal that Raja Nadir Pervez, a retired army lieutenant colonel and former government minister, owned International Finance & Equipment Ltd, a company registered in the BVI. In the leaked files, the company is involved in machinery and related activities 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 beneficiaries of the trust is a British arms dealer. According to UK court documents, one of the trust’s other companies helped negotiate arms sales from Belgian manufacturer FN Herstal SA to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, an Indian state-owned defense company.

While he owned International Finance & Equipment, Pervez also held several senior positions in the Pakistani government. He was elected to the National Assembly in 1985 and then joined Imran Khan’s party. Pervez did not respond to questions from reporters.

Another influential former military leader who appears in the leaked documents is Major General Nusrat Naeem, former ISI Counterintelligence Director General. He owned a BVI company, Afghan Oil & Gas Ltd, which was registered in 2009, shortly after his retirement. He said the company was started by a friend and he was not using it for any financial transactions.

Islamabad police then charged Naeem with fraud relating to the attempted purchase of a steel plant for $ 1.7 million. The case was closed.

The Pandora Papers also shed light on notable offshore holdings of close relatives of three senior military officials.

Umar and Ahad Khattak, sons of former Pakistani Air Force chief Abbas Khattak, in 2010 registered a BVI company to invest what the documents call “family business profits” in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate.

The Khattaks did not respond to questions from journalists.

In an example of intergenerational wealth transfer, Shahnaz Sajjad Ahmad inherited a fortune from his father, a retired lieutenant general, through an offshore trust that owns two London apartments, bought in 1997 and 2011 in Knightsbridge, a few no Harrods. She, in turn, created a trust for her daughters in 2003 in Guernsey, the Channel’s tax haven. His father was a favorite of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, the country’s first military dictator (1958-1969). After his father retired from the military, he founded one of Pakistan’s largest business conglomerates. Ayub Khan’s son then married the family and sits on the boards of several companies in the group.

Shahnaz did not respond to requests for comment from the ICIJ.

Taken together, the results paint a portrait of an irresponsible military elite with vast personal and family assets abroad.


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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.