The Panama Papers explained

The Panama Papers are back in the spotlight after Pakistan Supreme Court ordered a probe into allegations of money laundering by PM Nawaz Sharif . Here’s what they are


Based on the Panama Papers revelations, the opposition parties in Pakistan accuse PM Nawaz Sharif of failing to explain the source of money in offshore companies owned by his children. Photo: Reuters
Based on the Panama Papers revelations, the opposition parties in Pakistan accuse PM Nawaz Sharif of failing to explain the source of money in offshore companies owned by his children. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: Pakistan Supreme Court on Thursday ordered further probe into graft allegations leveled by the opposition parties, especially cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf party, against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The court considers the existing evidence as insufficient. Based on the Panama Papers revelations, the opposition accuses Sharif of failing to explain the source of money in offshore companies owned by his children.

Here are the key facts related to the case and the Panama Papers:

■ The case was launched on 3 November and the court held 35 hearings before concluding the proceedings on 23 February. The case is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s when he twice served as Prime Minister to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama papers last year showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children.

■ The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5million files from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm.

■ The records were first obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was later shared will multiple media organizations.

■ The documents reveal how the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. The papers point fingers at many politicians such as Pakistan’s Sharif, Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Iraqi vice-president Ayad Allawi, Ukrainian president Peter Poroshenko and many others along with their families and close associates from around the world using offshore tax havens. Even British PM David Cameron’s father’s name was listed in the documents.

■ Mossack Fonseca is a Panama-based law firm whose services include incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands. It administers offshore firms for a yearly fee. Other services include wealth management.

■ The data leak related to the Panama Papers is considered to be one of the biggest ever, even larger than the US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks in 2010 or the secret intelligence dossier leaked by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

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