Comprising members of NAB, FBR and FIA, cell will determine whether offshore companies were legally declared to tax authorities
Prime Minister Imran Khan has formed a high-level cell to probe the information revealed by the Pandora Papers leaks, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain announced on Monday.
The Pandora Papers, released after a two-year investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, contains a massive tranche of leaked data on offshore companies, revealing the financial secrets of the global rich. According to journalists Umar Cheema and Fakhar Durrani, who represented Pakistan in the ICIJ’s probe, more than 700 Pakistanis had been found to have an involvement with offshore companies.
In an article on its investigation, the ICIJ said that it had found offshore companies of several members of the prime minister’s federal cabinet and financiers; retired military officials; media owners; and businessmen. Immediately after the probe’s findings were announced, Khan said he “welcomed” the exposing of “ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion and corruption and laundered out to financial havens.” He also vowed to investigate all the names identified and take appropriate action if any wrongdoing established.
Contrary to his statements prior to his election, the prime minister has not asked any members of his cabinet to quit their posts until their innocence can be proven.
“The prime minister has set up a high-level cell under the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission to investigate the Pandora leaks, which will present facts before the nation,” Fawad said in his statement after a meeting chaired by the prime minister discussed the leaks.
According to officials privy to the meeting, the prime minister was presented an initial report into the Pandora Papers and briefed on the actions being considered against Pakistani nationals named in it. They said that the special cell formed to proceed with the investigation would include representatives of the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency and the Federal Bureau of Revenue. The government has not yet announced the terms of reference of the cell.
While the Pandora Papers feature over 700 Pakistanis, the most prominent owners of offshore firms identified thus far are Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin; Water Resources Minister Moonis Elahi; Senator Senator Faisal Vawda; MPA Aleem Khan; Ali Dar, the son of PMLN’s Ishaq Dar; PPP’s Sharjeel Memon; and the family of Industries and Production Minister Khusro Bakhtiyar.