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Former Pakistan PM Shaukat Aziz named in Paradise Papers

Islamabad, Nov 6 (IANS) Former Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has been named in the Paradise Papers, a fresh leak of financial documents revealing how the powerful and wealthy secretly invested vast amounts of money in offshore tax havens.

The world-wide probe was carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the leaks on Sunday consist of 13.4 million files. The revelations involve two companies, Bermuda’s Appleby and Singapore’s Asiaciti.

The most prominent Pakistani name that emer­ged from the fresh leaks was that of Aziz, the Musharraf-era Finance Minister who was Prime minister from 2004 to 2007, Dawn online reported.

Aziz worked for Citibank before entering politics and was “one of the shareholders and directors of the Bahamas-registered Cititrust Limited from 1997 to 1999, along with other executives of the bank”, the Dawn reported.

“Shaukat Aziz set up the Antarctic Trust in the name of his wife, three children and grand-daughter weeks before he came to Pakistan to lead the Finance Ministry,” ICIJ representative Umar Cheema told Geo News.

Cheema added that these assets were never declared to any Pakistani institution in financial documents Aziz submitted between 2003 and 2006.

“Appleby’s Bermuda office was the trust’s protector, acting as an independent overseer. In a 2012 internal memo, the law firm’s compliance officer noted that Aziz had been accused by the opposition of false declaration of assets, corruption and misappropriation of funds,” the ICIJ website said.

Antarctic Trust was closed in September 2015.

The ICIJ maintained that the Antarctic Trust held most of Aziz’s assets earned when he worked at Citicorp and was created before he relocated to Pakistan to be appointed the Finance Minister.

The purpose was “to insure that if he were to die, his assets would pass efficiently to his family”, Aziz’s lawyer told the ICIJ.

A former Chairman of the National Insurance Corp Ltd, Ayaz Khan Niazi, was also named in the Paradise Papers in connection with four offshore holdings in the British Virgin Islands.

According to a report in the News daily, as many as 135 Pakistani individuals with accounts in a Swiss bank were also identified which they either created in their own name or through offshore companies.

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