Sharif Clan’s Trail of Piracy
Sharif Clan’s Trail of Piracy
The following is the report, by David Rose, published in Daily Mail. David Rose is a British investigative journalist. He reported from Islamabad.
This is another report which provides data/inferences for use by anyone studying/researching on any aspect of ‘corruption dynamics’ of politics in Pakistan since last many decades.
Accessed 25 November 2018
Penthouse pirates: How the mega-rich former prime minister of Pakistan and his sons have ploughed millions into London’s swankiest addresses to amass a vast property empire
- Avenfield House is where Pakistan’s super-rich former PM, Nawaz Sharif, has lived when in London, since 1993
- He knocked four luxury flats together to make a single mansion, now worth at least £7million
- Sharif shares it with his two sons, his daughter and political heir-apparent Maryam and her husband
- For the past four months, all five of them have been on trial in Pakistan accused of money-laundering
PUBLISHED: 22:00 GMT, 23 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:01 GMT, 27 June 2018
The address could not be swankier. Avenfield House lies in the heart of Mayfair, near the top of Park Lane, with a view of Hyde Park.
It is just the kind of property that Russian oligarchs have pounced upon in recent years.
But while it is owned by a family of foreign plutocrats with powerful political connections, they are no Putin cronies.
For Avenfield is where Pakistan’s super-rich former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has lived when in London since 1993, knocking four luxury flats together to make a single mansion, now worth at least £7 million.
He shares it with his sons, Hassan and Hussain, his daughter and political heir-apparent Maryam and her husband Muhammad Safdar.
For the past four months, all five of them have been on trial in Pakistan accused of money-laundering.
The Avenfield flats, the prosecutors say, were bought with dirty money. They form just a fraction of a London property empire owned by Sharif’s family.
And prosecutors believe the money used to bankroll it was dishonestly acquired by Nawaz Sharif during his three terms as prime minister.
Last year, when Sharif was still PM, the courts barred him from holding public office for the rest of his life, on grounds he failed to declare a salary from a Dubai company when he last ran for office in 2013.
The first of three money-laundering verdicts, which relates to the Avenfield flats, is expected this week.
If found guilty, the family’s assets will be confiscated and they face huge fines and jail sentences of up to 14 years.
Sharif and his family deny any wrongdoing, and none has yet been convicted of any offence. Their supporters claim the charges against them are politically motivated.
The family are also accused of using dirty money to buy at least 21 UK properties on top of the Avenfield flats, most at equally grand Central London locations, in Mayfair, Chelsea and Belgravia.
The total value of the properties is estimated at at least £32 million.
The family has made huge profits from other sites which have not figured in court – such as the swankiest address of all, at One Hyde Park Place, which Nawaz Sharif’s son Hassan sold for £43 million.
Untangling the web of the Sharifs’ British real estate portfolio is not easy. The properties are registered via a bewildering network of companies, trusts and bank accounts.
According to the prosecutors, the Sharifs have for years moved their money in and out of Britain, Switzerland, the Middle East and the British Virgin Islands – to conceal its dishonest provenance.
It is not illegal to own property through an offshore company.
However, under Pakistan’s national accountability laws – first enacted in 1997 when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister – it is down to the Sharifs to prove their assets were acquired legitimately.
This, the prosecutors claim, they have failed to do. In court last week, Nawaz’s Sharif’s defence counsel claimed the prosecution had failed to establish his client was the beneficial owner of the flats or that he ran the offshore companies.
He said his name did not appear on documents submitted by the prosecutors and that he did not need to call any evidence for the defence because the prosecution had not proved its case.
At the heart of the cases against the family is a ten-volume dossier, which is part of the formal court record.
The work of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) from six Pakistani law enforcement and intelligence agencies, it is based on hundreds of documents and interviews with the Sharifs and their associates.
As well as claiming that their assets exceed their demonstrable legal income, it also cites nine separate ongoing corruption investigations into Nawaz, in which he is alleged to have ‘misused his authority’ as PM and derived personal benefits.
The defence has challenged its contents, claiming the JIT went beyond its remit with its analysis and conclusions.
Sharif’s two sons, Hassan and Hussain, fled Pakistan just as the charges against them were being drawn up last year, and have taken refuge in London.
There is no extradition treaty between Britain and Pakistan.
Next month, Pakistan will hold a general election. Sharif’s influence over his party, the Pakistan Muslim League, is still enormous, and if he is convicted of any of the charges, this will give an enormous boost to his main rival, the former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan – who campaigned for Pakistan’s courts to order the investigation into the Sharifs.
Interviewed by the MoS at his hilltop estate near Islamabad, Khan said: ‘This case has raised the awareness of corruption in Pakistan to unprecedented levels. Before, people used to accept it. It was part of the colonial mindset. Not any more.
‘But you in Britain have to play your part. Corruption and money laundering that transfers wealth from poor countries to rich causes poverty and death.
‘We have massive unemployment, 25 million children out of school and one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. I guess money laundering is making it more expensive for Londoners to buy houses. For us, the consequences are unethical, immoral, disastrous.’
Khan has been raising the issue of the Avenfield flats since 1998, just after he first entered politics: ‘I did a protest then outside those flats, saying these belong to Nawaz Sharif, and they were money laundered.
‘He always denied ownership – but when he went to London he lived there. There would be meetings in the flats. Everyone knew.’
Khan’s chance came with the Panama Papers, millions of confidential documents leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in April 2016.
They revealed the Sharif family had assets worth millions in Britain and many other countries – including the Avenfield flats – together with details of some of their financial network.
Khan fought successfully to persuade the Pakistan Supreme Court to open an inquiry and it, in turn, appointed the JIT.
When the court received its dossier last summer, it referred the case for trial.
In a series of statements to the Supreme Court and the JIT, the Sharifs have claimed that many of their properties – not only their London real estate, but other assets including a Saudi steelworks – were ultimately derived from a single original source: the sale, in 1980, of a 25 per cent stake in a Dubai steelworks once owned by Nawaz Sharif’s father, Mian Sharif. They claim he sold this stake for about £1.2 million.
Then, they say, Mian Sharif entrusted this sum to his nephew, Mian Shafi.
Shafi gave it in cash to a now deceased Qatari prince, who agreed to invest in a company owned by the royal family. The prince made no written record of this because, Nawaz Sharif told the investigators, his grandfather ‘did not believe in documentation’.
Tags: #Sharif Clan, #Corruption, # Politics in Pakistan, #Corruption Dynamics in Politics