Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family has defended ownership of their offshore companies and property, denying any wrongdoing in their development.
The defense came after the leak of a vast trove of documents and other data from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed, among others, the names of Sharif’s two sons and a daughter, with the records showing they owned London real state through offshore companies.
"Those apartments are ours and those offshore companies are also ours, and all of them registered under our names,” the prime minister’s son, Hussain Nawaz Sharif, said in interviews to Pakistani television stations.
"There is nothing wrong with it and I have never concealed them, nor do I need to do that.” he added, saying he left Pakistan in 1992 and is therefore not a resident, not required to declare assets under the Pakistani tax laws.
He was speaking on behalf of his brother Hasan Nawaz and sister Maryam Safadar.
The Sharif family owns a network of businesses, including steel, sugar, paper mills and at home and extensive property abroad. But it has long been accused of tax evasion and secreting away money to offshore accounts.
Though Sharif’s sons moved to London many years ago, they have been running family businesses from abroad.
Maryam is in Pakistan and many believe she is being groomed to take over leadership of her father’s political party.
Corruption and misrule allegations engulfed the two previous elected governments Sharif headed in the 1990s, ultimately leading to his ouster.
He lived in exile in Saudi Arabia after dismissal of his last government in 1999 and returned seven years later to rejoin politics.Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party won 2013 national elections, allowing him to become the prime minister of Pakistan for a third time.But allegations of corruption and misrule engulf the current Sharif administration.
Wealth stashed abroad
Opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party leader Imran Khan called for the country’s anti-corruption body and tax authorities to investigate the matter.
“Our stance vindicated again as Sharif’s wealth stashed abroad exposed,” Khan said, demanding the national election commission to take action against the prime minister for concealing property.
"All their assets are legal and established through white money,” federal information minister Pervez Rashid told reporters while responding to Khan's assertions.
The "Panama Papers" leak contained names of 20 other Pakistani businessmen and politicians, including slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her party's senior member, former interior minister Rehman Malik.