The colossal leak, dubbed Panama Papers, which revealed the financial operations carried out by the world's rich and famous through shell companies, has shed light on the monetary dealings of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's children as well. According to the records of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, where the leaks originally stemmed from, Sharif's children owned London real estate through a labyrinth of businesses.
Sharif is among the high-profile politicians, besides Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who have figured in the massive leak of secret documents. While figuring in the disclosures does not necessarily imply wrongdoing, it could open a can of worms pertaining to potential tax-avoidance techniques adopted by the world's elite.
Three of Sharif's four children — Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz— are involved in numerous businesses having properties abroad. The Sharifs, one of Pakistan's richest families, are already conspicuous by the political clout they wield in the country. Nobody from Sharif's family has officially responded to the disclosures as yet.
The leaks are part of an unprecedented exposé of confidential data that lifts the lid off the murky operations of shell companies, which function by concealing their identity. The 2.6 terabyte of data yielded up to 11.5 million documents from around 214,000 offshore entities. The probe was led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), with the help of more than 100 media groups and German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The documents, accessed by the ICIJ, show that Sharif's children "were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies". Sharif's daughter Maryam, who is also the political heir of the prime minister, was described as "the owner of British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, incorporated in 1994 and 1993". Sharif's family, at various times during the 1990s, has been accused of money laundering and tax avoidance but have denied any unlawful activity.
Names of as many as 200 prominent Pakistani figures, including politicians and businessmen, have surfaced in the Mossack Fonseca leaks and the numbers are not yet exhaustive, according to the Pakistani daily The News, whose correspondent has partnered with the ICIJ. While most of the Pakistani nationals figured in the leaks are businessmen, some sitting and former judges have also been mentioned.
The explosive leaks have already set off serious repercussions in many nations. While Kremlin reacted angrily about receiving "a series of questions in a rude manner" regarding the allegations on Putin, Australian and New Zealand tax authorities have set up an inquiry on the local clients of Mossack Fonseca.