Ikram Sehgal |
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) mandated by a 3-member Bench of the Supreme Court (SC) has commenced its investigations about the “Panama Papers”. History’s biggest leak ever included 215000 confidential documents revealing financial and attorney-client information about scores of outright criminals, drug smugglers, etc current and former world leaders along with their close relatives and/or friends linking them to tax evasion, money-laundering, etc.
Having off-shore companies to avoid inheritance or other taxes in the country of investment is not really illegal unless there is tax avoidance in the country of origin and money-laundering.
Examining the whopping 2.6 terabytes (2600 GB) data obtained from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca forced German newspaper Süeddeustche Zeitung (SDZ) to request the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) for help. ICIJ exhaustive global examining collaboration included nearly 80 countries comprising more than 350 journalists.
Options for JIT for an effective Investigation
Having off-shore companies to avoid inheritance or other taxes in the country of investment is not really illegal unless there is tax avoidance in the country of origin and money-laundering. The SC seemed to have glossed over these salient points initially for lack of forensic evidence but has made up the gap by constituting the JIT. Forming the Jit the onus is on the Sharif family to provide the linkages between money transfer, taxes paid, etc.
Highly trained investigators looking for clues and evidence in the background of the accused use a range of tools including surveillance, records checks, informants, etc to help solve crimes.
People seem to forget that the bigger crime is giving false statements, magnified many times over if an individual is holding a public office or being related/associated with someone who does. Investigations include alleged violation of laws, by non-disclosure of means of income and assets, allegations of bribery and financial mismanagement including kickbacks, money laundering, internal control lapses and other financial improprieties, etc. The JIT has the option of using the latest software available in the world to uncover the complete records of those being investigated.
Highly trained investigators looking for clues and evidence in the background of the accused use a range of tools including surveillance, records checks, informants, etc to help solve crimes. The JIT constituted by the SC can tap into a global network of resources, supported by cutting edge intelligence and information technology for surveillance, due diligence, forensic accounting, undercover financial investigations, fraud, asset searches, etc.
Rea more: JIT: Now is the real test of Pakistan’s institutions
Why did the Sharifs not sue Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer for such defamatory black and white accusations? In fact, the SDZ journalists have effectively silenced Maryam Nawaz by responding to her tweet labeling the “Panama Papers” as crap!
To quote Sparks Fly Chapter 10 of the international bestseller “The Panama Papers” by Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer (not brothers), “mentioned in despatches”, to quote “a trail leading to Nawaz Sharif, the current Prime Minister of Pakistan. In a critical report, the World Bank names two companies in the British Virgin Islands that Sharif is said to have used for questionable business deals: Nescoll and Nielson. Sharif is believed to have bought luxury homes through these companies, including in London.
The owner, at least until 2012, was Mariam Safdar, nee Sharif: Nawaz Sharif’s daughter. Neither the PM nor his daughter had responded to their requests for comment” unquote. Why did the Sharifs not sue Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer for such defamatory black and white accusations? In fact, the SDZ journalists have effectively silenced Maryam Nawaz by responding to her tweet labeling the “Panama Papers” as crap!
Read more: Any hope from JIT for Justice?
“An enemy of an enemy is a friend”
The owners of the media group collaborating with ICIJ were also listed in the Panama Papers along with the Sharifs, certainly a “conflict of interest” situation. The sudden “love-fest” between the Sharifs and this particular media group who were previously daggers drawn for decades coincides with the raw data sent by ICIJ. The Chanakya concept holds that when interests are common, “an enemy of an enemy is a friend”. Material deemed to be “damaging” for those named in the leaks could have been “’deleted”, particularly details of and money transfer made off-shore accounts.
The ‘cleaned’ version about Pakistan was released by ICIJ in April 2016 with wholesale omissions from the original data sent originally. The ICIJ, of course, has no way of knowing how much data was deleted. The JIT could ask the ICIJ for the original data to carry out a forensic search. If data has been deleted than those guilty of it, individual (s) and/or entities, must be held accountable.
The pursuit of accountability is a zero-sum game; unfortunately political nuances and self-interest compromise its implementation. “Democracy” is a camouflage for the criminals using unscrupulous chartered accountants to hide their illegal money stashed abroad in banks and assets while our soldiers die for their country in the far away reaches of Shawal Mountains, FATA, Swat, etc. How do those ordering their soldiers into situations embracing “Shahadat” manage to qualm their conscience while saluting those looting the country at will to protect “democracy”? Consider the ultimate irony, Asif Ali Zardari lecturing us on the Constitution!
Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is Pakistani defense analyst and security expert. He is a regular contributor of articles in newspapers that include: The News and the Urdu daily Jang. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.