Panama Papers: Pakistan PM announces commission to investigate claims

Pakistani people watch a televised addresses to the nation by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on April 5, 2016.
Pakistani people watch a televised addresses to the nation by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on April 5, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced on Tuesday the formation of a commission to investigate allegations made in the so-called Panama Papers that linked his family to a series of offshore companies.

"I have decided to set up a high level judicial commission headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court. This commission will decide after its investigation that what is reality and how much weight these allegations should be given," Sharif said in a TV address broadcast nationwide.

The leaked papers, comprising 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, exposes how some of the world's most powerful people have secreted their money offshore, and also implicated Sharif's sons Hasan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz.

"Some of my friends advised me that because there are no allegations against me and that both of my sons are adults and responsible for their own affairs, I should remain separate from this issue... but my dear compatriots, I want the facts to be presented before the nation and every Pakistani should be aware of the reality of the allegations," he said.

Among those named are three of Sharif's four children - daughter Maryam, who has been tipped to be his political successor, and sons Hasan and Hussain - with the records showing they owned London real estate through offshore companies administered by Mossack Fonseca.

While the Panama Papers detail complex financial arrangements benefiting the world's elite, they do not necessarily mean the schemes were all illegal.

According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, most of the services the offshore industry provides can be used for legal purpose and are by law-abiding customers. But the documents show that banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to make sure clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption.

"I would ask those who repeat these stereotypical allegations and stage every day a circus, that they go in front of this commission and prove their allegations," Sharif said, while emphasising that his family's wealth had been hard earned and they were being victimised.

Sharif's son Hussain has also denied the allegations saying his family had done "nothing wrong".

"Those apartments are ours and those offshore companies are also ours," he said.

"There is nothing wrong with it and I have never concealed them, nor do I need to do that. It is according to British law and laws of other countries that it is a legal way to avoid unnecessary tax via offshore companies," he told local tv channels when the Panama Papers were first released.