Nawaz Sharif, Putin among world leaders exposed in Panama leaks

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Close aides of Russian president Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are among those whose assets feature in a vast expose of tax havens published after a year-long investigation into 11.5 million leaked documents.

The assets of around 140 political figures — including 12 current of former heads of states — are mentioned in the revelations, according to the probe by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The investigation yield 11.5 million documents from around 214,000 offshore entities, the ICIJ said on its website, “The leaked data from 1975 to the end of last year provides what the ICIJ described as a ‘never-before-seen’ view inside the offshore world”.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung said, “The amount of data it obtained is several times larger than a previous cache of offshore data published by WikiLeaks in 2013 that exposed the financial dealings of prominent individuals.

Sharif’s family owned properties in London

Hussain and Hasan Nawaz Sharif, and Mariam Safdar, the sons and daughter of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had set up at least four offshore companies in British Virgin Islands (BVI), reported the Indian Express. The Sharif family bought six lavish properties overlooking London’s Hyde Park through these companies.

Documents reviewed by The Indian Express and subsequent enquiries reveal that the Sharif family mortgaged four of these properties to the Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA for a loan of GBP 7 million and the Bank of Scotland part financed the purchase of two other apartments.

The documents suggest Putin’s family has benefited from this money – his friends’ fortunes appear his to spend.

“Putin and his close associates secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies”, the ICIJ said.

“These findings show how deeply ingrained harmful practices and criminality is in the offshore world,” said Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the US-based University of California, Berkeley, cited by the consortium.

The leaked documents came from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm with offices in more than 35 countries.

They were reviewed by a team of more than 370 reporters from over 70 countries, according to the ICIJ.

The BBC cited Panama-based Mossack Fonseca as saying it had operated “beyond reproach” for 40 years and had never been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

It wasn’t clear that who was the original source of the leaked documents.

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