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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Owners of GEO, Dawn, Express among Pakistani media moguls named in Pandora Papers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani media bigwigs including Dawn CEO, Jang, BOL, and Express Media Group CEOs among a list of Pakistanis who allegedly used global tax havens to drape their financial secrets via offshore companies.

According to the report of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the mega scandal dubbed as Pandora Papers has unveiled the names of Pakistani media owners, business magnates, army personnel other than the politicians who moved their billions through offshore companies.

The owner of the country’s biggest mainstream media channel Geo Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman reportedly named in the list for having connections with Brookwood Ventures Limited in the BVI jurisdiction.

Rehman transferred the shares of the company in 2008. A man named Fareeduddin Siddiqi was appointed director of the firm. Meanwhile, Jang’s owner showed unwillingness to respond to the allegations, saying his company is already declared.

The report further added that Shakil later agreed to reply to the queries after being pressed by the investigation cell. The report quoted him saying “No, it’s not true, I don’t own any company. However, I had this till 2018.”

The second most high-up individual is Dawn media group’s CEO, Hameed Haroon, who also owned an offshore company that goes by the name of Bardney Limited. The offshore firm is duly declared and is being reported to the relevant authorities in the South Asian country in accordance with the laws, he responded.

Express Group’s owner and famed business tycoon Sultan Lakhani has been named among the individuals exposed by a US-based investigative group. Century Media Network Inc is the company attributed to Lakhani’s name which was reportedly incorporated in 2005.

Muhammad Anwer Abdullah, another individual, owned shares in the offshore company of Lakhani. Meanwhile, his spokesperson responded that all companies are legal.

GNN Group, a Pakistani current affairs channel owned and operated by Gourmet Foods, also had an offshore firm named Gourmet Holdings Limited in the BVI jurisdiction.

The food giant owns a chain of bakeries across the country’s most populous province. Meanwhile, it is uncertain about the declaration of the firm. The company’s officials didn’t respond to investigators.

Another surprising name is late journalist Arif Nizami, the owner of Pakistan Today. A company named New Mile Production Limited was registered in the British Virgin Islands which was incorporated in July 2000.

The secret documents also revealed that Nizami and his wife Naveen Arif Nizami were declared beneficial owners of the company.

Other than the media bigwigs, a number of retired military officers are also named in the report of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The development comes around five years after the ICIJ published the Panama papers, which cited documents allegedly belonging to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to assert that some national leaders and their confidants used offshore banking to conceal their fortunes.

Here’s a list of other Pakistanis named in the ICIJ probe:

Business personalities

  • Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh
  • National Bank of Pakistan President Arif Usmani
  • National Investment Trust Managing Director Adnan Afridi
  • Peshawar Zalmi owner and renowned industrialist Javed Afridi

Politicians or politically exposed persons:

  • Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and his family
  • Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi
  • Ex-federal minister and Senator Faisal Vawda
  • Son of PM’s former adviser for finance and revenue Waqar Masood Khan, Abdullah Masood Khan
  • Family of Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiyar
  • PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan
  • PPP’s Sharjeel Memon
  • PML-N’s Ishaq Dar’s son Ali Dar
  • PTI donor Arif Naqvi
  • PTI donor Tariq Shafi
  • Wife of PML-Q boss Chaudhry Pervez Elahi
  • Former FBR chairman and finance secretary Salman Siddiq’s son Yawar Salman

Army officers or their family members

  • Wife of retired Lt Gen Shafaat Ullah Shah
  • Raja Nadir Pervez, retired army officer and former minister
  • Retired Maj Gen Nusrat Naeem, former ISI director general of counterintelligence
  • Umar and Ahad Khattak, sons of former Pakistan Air Force chief Abbas Khattak
  • Retired Lt Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak’s daughter Shahnaz Sajjad Ahmad (also the sister of retired Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan and sister-in-law of former federal minister Gohar Ayub Khan)
  • Retired Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal Muzaffar’s son Muhammad Hasan Muzaffar
  • Retired Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool’s son-in-law Ahsan Latif
  • Retired Lt Gen Tanvir Tahir’s wife Zahra Tanvir

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