By Umar Cheema
Islamabad, PAKISTAN: Although no offshore entity is directly owned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as many as eight companies have been identified that are linked either with the former’s children or the latter’s in-laws families, documents that ICIJ shared with the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan (CIRP), reveal.
Maryam Nawaz is secret beneficial owner of two companies that were set-up in 1993-94, records indicate. She is also shareholder of another company jointly owned by her and Hussain Nawaz. Hassan is sole owner of yet another offshore holding. The companies have last been used for purchasing six properties in London during 2007-8.
Shehbaz Sharif’s brother-in-law, Ilyas Mehraj, has been mentioned as a major shareholder of a company, he firmly denies though. CM Punjab’s mother-in-law from second marriage, Samina Durrani, owns three companies; the latest was opened in 2010. The Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan (CIRP) obtained access to the secret documents, thanks to International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Nescoll Limited, Nielson Holdings Limited, Coomber Group Inc., and Hangon Property Holdings Limited are four companies owned by Maryam, Hussain and Hassan.
Details shared with BVI administration declare Maryam the sole beneficial owner and the “family business” has been described as source of funds whereas Saroor Palace (Jeddah) address has been mentioned.
In her April 4 tweet the premier’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, sharing official response of the Sharif family said neither she was beneficiary nor owner of any of these companies. She said she was merely a trustee of one of the corporations owned by Hussain Nawaz.
Sharif family’s official response to distortion of information given in Panama Leaks. pic.twitter.com/d84jfOsQz6
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) April 4, 2016
As many as six properties were purchased in London during 2007 and 2008 through these offshore companies. Nescol, Nielsen and Coomber entered into a mortgage deal of seven million pounds with a Swiss bank, Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA, for four properties. Hangon bought two properties though a loan from the Bank of Scotland.
Although Hangon’s loan amount is not mentioned, documents indicate that the company itself was purchased along with its stock in 5.5 million pounds by Hassan Nawaz in 2007 from a Liberian citizen.
The oldest company among the four is Nescoll Limited. It was registered on January 27, 1993, six-month before Nawaz Sharif stepped down as prime minister. Nielson Holdings Limited was incorporated on April 14, 1994. Both of them subscribed the services of Mossack Fonseca on July 26, 2006 and Minerva Services Limited, a British Virgin Island based corporate service provider, acted as proxy shareholder being represented through Neel Sehai and Mark Andrew.
Mossack Fonseca was their administrator when Nescoll, Nielson and Coomber obtained mortgage of seven millions pound from the Swiss bank through these companies and purchased flats: 16, 16a, 17, and 17a at Avenfield House, 118 Park Lane, London, W1K 7AF. While Maryam is the sole beneficial owner of Nescoll and Nielson, Coomber is jointly owned by Maryam and Hussain.
In the meanwhile, Bank of Scotland sanctioned a loan of unknown amount to Hassan-owned Hangon for the purchase of property at 1 Hyde Park Place, London, W2.
As for as the secret ownership of Nescoll and Nielson is concerned , it remained unknown until June 22, 2012 when the companies’ service provider had to answer the inquiry of the Financial Investigation Authority of BVI administration demanding the identity of the real beneficial owner and the sources of funding. Reply sent in compliance found Maryam as the beneficial owner of both companies and family business described as the source of funding.
Hassan transferred company to another agent from Mossack Fonseca in 2008, the activities that followed couldn’t be found in the leaked record, the remaining three companies also changed their agent in 2014 hence the post-transfer business remains unknown.
CIRP’s Umar Cheema sent questions to Maryam, Hassan and Hussain that have not been replied.
As many as four companies have been linked with the in-laws of Shehbaz Sharif. Haylandale Limited, a company registered in Bahamas on July 24, 2003 shows Habib Waqas Group/Ilyas Mehraj as a shareholder owning 127735 shares. Other shareholders are Credit Suisse Life & Pensions (125000 shares), High Octane Fund (900,000) and Michael Mates (100,000).
A resolution passed in a meeting held on September 4, 2004, states among that “It was further resolved that the Secretary and Director shall effect a transfer of shares of 400,000 shares to Mark Wilson from Haseeb Waqas Group/Ilyas Mehraj.”
Ilyas Mehraj however categorically denied this impression. “We have read the contents of your email and are surprised at the contents thereof. We are not aware of any company whether incorporated in the Common Wealth of Bahamas or anywhere else under the name: Haylandale Ltd. The question of our Group, which is Haseeb Waqas or Mr. Ilyas Mehraj having any shares of the said company, does not arise. Therefore, we are unable to answer the queries on the same,” his spokesman replied.
Meanwhile on Tuesday night in his address to the nation Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced forming a high-level judicial commission to investigate the allegations of owning off-shore companies and concealing assets.
Samina Durrani, mother of CM Shehbaz’s second wife, Tehmina Durrani, own three offshore companies: Rainbow Limited, registered in BVI on September 29, 2010; Armani River Limited, registered in Bahamas on May 16, 2002 and Star Precision Limited, registered in BVI on May 21, 1997.
Assets of Armani have been described as “property in London, which is not currently rented.” In case of Star Precision Limited, described asserts are “cash as the investment portfolio. We are also holding 1,165,238 shares in Orix Leasing Pakistan Limited.”
Questions sent through Tehmina Durrani to her mother have not been responded as yet. However her April 4 tweet she said “I am not part of my mother’s wealth nor do I know what she owns or who she banks with.” However her tweet the next day reads as below.
Even if off shore companies ,foreign properties ,and accounts ‘mite’ be legal, for ME they are unethical .
— Tehmina Durrani (@TehminaDurrani) April 5, 2016
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has been quite critical of the Sharif government and believes people open offshore accounts through Panama is to either hide wealth, especially ill-gotten wealth, or to evade tax or both.
Only reason ppl open offshore accts through Panama is to either hide wealth, esp ill-gotten wealth, or to evade tax or both.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 4, 2016
Umar Cheema is member of ICIJ that partnered with more than 100 media organizations from 76 countries for reviewing 11.5 million secret files that a whistleblower leaked to Süddeutsche Zeitung.