ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission (PMIC) has completed about 80 percent of the investigative inquiry into the highly publicized Pandora Papers revelations about offshore companies, money laundering and tax evasion by big guns, and (in response to your inquiries) received responses from almost all civil servants, bureaucrats and generals whose names have appeared in the newspapers.
During the investigation, the PMIC learned that the names of 700 Pakistanis, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), have appeared on Pandora Papers, but the PMIC has so far received 240 names from the consortium, and those are individuals are being investigated.
Sources from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said Dawn that, contrary to the impression that a curtain had been drawn on the Pandora Papers revelations, the PMIC would meet the deadline to complete the first phase of the investigation against 240 people by the end of this month (January 2022). The commission will go ahead with the new names to be shared by the ICIJ.
“Of these 240 people, there are about 40 civil servants, bureaucrats and military generals,” said a source, adding that almost all had responded to the PMIC’s inquiries.
The inspection commission believes that not all Pakistanis whose names have appeared in the newspapers are guilty
The commission believes that not all 240 defendants would have committed money laundering and tax evasion, since opening companies abroad and placing assets there was not a crime unless they were involved in money laundering and violated tax laws.
Those whose names have already been released include some members of the federal cabinet, retired civil and military officials and their families, prominent businessmen, and owners of some of the nation’s major media outlets.
However, it is not believed that all of them are guilty as some of them have only established offshore companies and did not park any assets there, some of them did business through these companies but did not commit any money laundering or tax evasion and some of they, who reside abroad, are obliged to comply with the tax and other laws of the countries in which they live and not with the laws of Pakistan.
For example, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, after his name appeared on Pandora Papers, clarified that he had established a company abroad for his own private bank, but did not park any assets in the company.
Pandora Papers is said to be the largest investigation ever conducted by ICIJ through a consortium of journalists from around the world. It was released on October 3, 2021. The Pandora Papers are based on documents leaked to the ICIJ that expose the offshore dealings of kings, presidents and prime ministers of more than 50 countries.
According to the ICIJ, Pandora Papers contains the names of more than 700 Pakistanis who secretly own or have owned a number of companies and trusts with millions of dollars in offshore jurisdictions.
“Shortly after the leak, the PMIC was tasked with investigating the events and the commission sent a pro forma report with some inquiries to the majority of 240 people, except for a few whose names have not been verified so far. The PMIC involved relevant institutions and so far has managed to complete 80 percent of the investigation, ”the sources said.
The commission gave each defendant seven days to respond to inquiries and all public officials, bureaucrats and military generals have given their statements.
The commission, which has been investigating the leak for three months, is assisted by the State Bank of Pakistan, the Pakistan Securities and Exchange Commission, Nadra, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority and the Federal Revenue Board.
On October 25, the commission called two Pakistani journalists who were part of Pandora Papers and sought the names of the defendants and details about their offshore financial activities.
However, except for a few names, the commission was unable to obtain further information.
The PMIC contacted the ICIJ to seek information on the defendants, but the consortium responded that it shared such information only with journalists.
According to sources, the PMIC faced difficulties in verifying the names of the accused and obtaining more information about them. “We were unable to verify the names of some defendants such as Nadra [National Database Registration Authority] The database showed thousands of people with the same name, ”said a senior commission official.
He said that nearly 30 to 35 names, out of the 240, were still untraceable, but that the commission was trying to obtain information on them through other sources and departments involved.
Posted in Dawn, Jan 1st, 2022