Pakistani PM Disqualified by Court over Panama Papers Links
More than a year after their release, the Panama Papers continue to make political waves across the globe. Most recently, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif found himself embroiled in the scandal – and has been removed from office and is facing criminal charges as a result.
Sharif was forced out of office at the end of July, resigning from his role after the Supreme Court disqualified him following a corruption allegation into his finances and those of his family. A graft probe found serious divergences between the wealth of Sharif and his family and Sharif’s known sources of income. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that Sharif was “dishonest” in his financial disclosures.
The Supreme Court first began looking into the corruption allegation because of the Panama Papers. The papers showed that the children of Sharif had ownership of or had signing rights to authorize the transactions of four offshore companies located in the British Virgin Islands. It was alleged that these four holdings were used to purchase various properties in London – including several apartments in London’s exclusive Mayfair area. Sharif and his children have said that these companies were set up with completely legal funds, but critics allege that the assets were not obtained legally.
Sharif’s daughter Maryam, for example, was shown as the owner of two different shell companies based offshore in the British Virgin Islands. These two companies, Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, were both set up in the 1990s just after Sharif’s first term as prime minister came to an end. One of Sharif’s sons, Hasan Nawaz Sharif, was shown as the director of a company called Hangon Property Holdings Limited registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Following the investigation, the Supreme Court ordered the country’s anti-corruption agency to file corruption cases against Sharif and his children, including his sons Hasan and Hussain Sharif, daughter Maryam Sharif, and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was also implicated in the probe and stripped of his government role.
The prime minister’s removal from office and the subsequent corruption charges will have political ramifications. One of Pakistan’s main opposition leaders, Imran Khan, first brought the case against Sharif. He is hoping to leverage the case to gain momentum for his anti-corruption drive and subsequently win supporters.
Moreover, Sharif’s party, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), will likely face increased pressure. Given that elections are next year, this could give the opposition a competitive edge and spark changes to the country’s political landscape.
Pakistan has long struggled with corruption. The country ranks 116 out of 176 countries in the Transparency International’s 2016 corruption perception index, and a number of politicians have been stripped of their positions due to corruption allegations. In fact, not a single prime minister has completed his five-year term since 1971 when democracy was first introduced to the country. This is not the first time Sharif has faced corruption allegations. His first term as prime minister in the early 1990s came to an abrupt and premature end as a result of concerns regarding corruption and mismanagement.
Now, all of the accused are expected to face trial. Depending on the outcome, it is possible that they will serve jail time. They may also be forced to forfeit property.
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