Islamabad (HRNW): Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing probing questions about his spectacular wealth after the massive leak of tax and financial records known as the Panama Papers. Mr Sharif, who is believed to be a billionaire twice over, is now being probed by Transparency International as a result of the leaked documents.
The anti-corruption organisation is calling for the Pakistani leader to explain how his family maintains and manages their fortune.
The Panama Papers confirm the Sharif family controls a vast land and property portfolio both in Pakistan, as well as overseas, including several in London’s upmarket Mayfair district — stately homes for the super rich and their families.
After being born into wealth, and receiving the best education affluent Pakistani parents could buy, Mr Sharif went on to add to his fortunes while wielding political power.
In the past Mr Sharif has been accused of making looting part of his job description. A case frequently cited is the building of Pakistan’s first motorway.
Critics claim Sharif was rewarded with kickbacks.
Two weeks ago, one of his sons, Hussain Sharif, who lives abroad, came clean in an interview about previously undisclosed wealth.
Transparency International said statements of assets of the Sharifs provided to Parliament needed examination.
“Under the law of Pakistan, if any Pakistani is living abroad more than six months, he doesn’t have to file income tax return because laws are made to facilitate the corrupt rulers,” Transparency International advisor Adel Gilani said.
“The Panama Papers have real very important information, and the Pakistani politicians … they all have assets outside Pakistan,” he said.
Sharif family denies wrongdoing
But Hussain Sharif publicly denied any family involvement in corruption, saying they had done “nothing wrong”.
“Those apartments are ours and those offshore companies are also ours,” he said in comments aired by private broadcast channel, Geo.
“There is nothing wrong with it and I have never concealed them, nor do I need to do that.
“It is according to British law and laws of other countries that it is a legal way to avoid unnecessary tax via offshore companies.”
Hussain Sharif said he left Pakistan in 1992 and was therefore not a resident, adding Pakistani tax law meant “if you are not staying in Pakistan for more than 138 days, then you are not required to declare your assets”.
Pakistani Opposition calls for investigation
Meanwhile, Pakistani Opposition politician Imran Khan called for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate the Sharif family finances.
“How much is your income? How much are you taxed? How much money to you have overseas?,” Mr Khan asked when launching his attack on the Prime Minister.
“I’ll demand of Nawaz Sharif, please declare all your assets.”
Hussain Sharif responded to Mr Khan’s call by saying: “We voluntarily present ourselves before it or any other judicial and investigative institution in Pakistan.”
He also issued a challenge to Mr Khan, calling on him to provide “proof that the Prime Minister has not declared his assets”.
“If he is successful in that then we are ready to accept our fault and undergo punishment,” Hussain Sharif said.