News Analysis |
Former prime minister, Shaukat Aziz found his name in the list of people in the Paradise Papers, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism(ICIJ) on Sunday. The treasure trove of documents totaling 13.4 million has called into question the dodgy business connections and ownership of 120 political figure, to include Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Queen Elizabeth and others. Syria’s top man, Bashar-al-Asad also features in the list.
The release of the Paradise Papers have also implicated many Pakistanis but it is unlikely that the leak will affect the country’s politics the way the Panama Papers have done. ICIJ’s release of the Panama Papers not only evicted former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif from power but also have brought him and his family on the cusp of ending the political career.
The most prominent inclusion in the Paradise Papers is that of Mr. Shaukat Aziz. The banker-turned-politician was finance minister during the regime of Gen. Musharraf before taking over the reins of the premiership in 2004 from Ch Shujaat Hussain.
Mr. Aziz created the Antarctic Trust shortly before becoming finance minister of Pakistan to ensure that if he were to die, his assets would pass efficiently to his family.
Aziz set up the Antarctic Trust; his wife Rukhsana Aziz and three children: Abid Aziz, Maha Aziz, Lubana Khan, and Tanya Khan (granddaughter) are its beneficiaries. The trust was established in 1999 in the US state of Delaware while he was working for the CitiBank shortly before becoming finance minister. Aziz did not declare it during his tenures as finance minister and prime minister. The trust that was being run from Bermuda was declared as “high risk” by Appleby law firm.
The non-declaration may compel critics to demand an investigation of Aziz in the way as the Sharifs were investigated in the Panama Papers. However, Aziz, speaking through his Attorney said that he was not required to declare it in Pakistan because he was settlor of the trust. Also, Aziz said that his family members were beneficiaries instead of beneficial owners hence they were not required to declare the trust. He added that no law was breached.
Aziz set up the Antarctic Trust; his wife Rukhsana Aziz and three children: Abid Aziz, Maha Aziz, Lubana Khan, and Tanya Khan are its beneficiaries.
“Mr. Aziz created the Antarctic Trust shortly before becoming finance minister of Pakistan to ensure that if he were to die, his assets would pass efficiently to his family. Since he was the target of more than one assassination attempt while he served in Pakistan, his concern was well-founded,” his attorney said.
Critics of the decision to oust Nawaz Sharif from power are pointing towards the farce of accountability. However, watchers assert that one that it is a job of the incumbent to bring Shaukat Aziz to book, it remains to be seen whether Aziz has violated any laws.
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The questions that will be needed to answer are: does the use of justified means of earning to buy offshore properties constitute a wrongdoing? Was Aziz involved in stashing away money from the country? The answers to these questions will determine whether there is a degree of similarity between Aziz’s case and those of the indicted ruling family. Amir Lateef, the ICIJ representative in Pakistan has said that in his analysis, Shaukat Aziz’s case doesn’t appear similar to those of money laundering. Aziz was a famous international banker; his earnings afforded him the luxury of buying the property. The only thing that can be politically relevant is whether his finances grew exponentially and dodgily while he was in power.