The rich list

Published: April 5, 2016
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The Panama Papers constitute one of the biggest-ever leaks of confidential or secret information, surpassing in volume alone that made by Edward Snowden.

The papers were leaked from a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca and in 11.5 million documents there is a trove of information as to how the world’s richest people have concealed their money in offshore companies in order to avoid taxation.

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Over 200 people of Pakistani origin are on the list and there are some very big names indeed. The leak and the subsequent analysis by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung has made headlines around the world, but in the case of those named as from Pakistan, which includes individuals belonging to the prime minister’s family, it has done nothing — so far — to uncover any wrongdoing or criminal activity.

Very wealthy people have attempted to avoid taxation since time immemorial. So-called ‘tax havens’ were developed to service this need as well as provide significant revenue for the countries in which they are legally based. There is nothing inherently illegal about operating a tax haven nor anything inherently illegal in taking advantage of the relief from taxation they offer. But it is also true that tax havens can be and have been used for criminal purposes, providing a parking place for ill-gotten gains and laundering dirty money.

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They offer a cloak of invisibility to those using them. While there is no evidence so far that any of those named in Pakistan have done anything other than what very rich people do worldwide when they avail themselves of tax-haven services, it remains doubtful whether there will ever be any impartial investigation within the country that could confirm this.

Hiding one’s wealth may not be a crime per se but it does give rise to suspicion and doubt as to motive and if those who rule us are in any way found linked to such activity, they have to face and answer the uncomfortable questions they are confronted with.

Panama Papers: A coup against the Sharifs and Bhuttos

These revelations may not confirm any criminality but they do sit uneasily in terms of the fact that the ruling classes of Pakistan have used tax havens for decades whilst presiding over a desperately poor country, where the tax burden is unfairly borne by the salaried and working classes while the super rich conveniently avoid paying their share.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th,  2016.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • curious2
    Apr 6, 2016 - 3:09AM

    Over 200 people of Pakistani origin are on the list and there are some very big names indeed.
    .
    So where’s the list?Recommend

  • Certitude
    Apr 6, 2016 - 2:38PM

    Wherez the list?Recommend

  • Hamdani
    Apr 6, 2016 - 2:45PM

    Misleading title of this article.

    This regime is forcing the ppl to file tax returns by imposing high WHT. Many industries are being squeezed for maximum tax imposition. The focus on tax for govt income is more than any previous govt.

    And our PM is justifying the use of tax havens as legitimate.
    . Recommend

  • Imran Qadri
    Apr 6, 2016 - 3:18PM

    UK legally allows an offshore company to own assets/flats in UK. As long as tax heavens are offering options to rich people and their financial managers,they would continue to chose that option to ‘legally’ avoid taxes. If tax heavens are such a problem then world should root them out and close those options. Until then finger pointing should stop. Accusers should prove wrongdoing on proper forum i.e. court of law instead of giving worthless statements. Recommend

  • Usman
    Apr 6, 2016 - 3:35PM

    @curious2: Email the ‘Guardian’ newspaper, if you’re so curious.
    .
    On another note, its absolute abhorrent that we don’t have a law enforcing tax on all properties, (foreign and local).Recommend

  • Usman
    Apr 6, 2016 - 4:06PM

    @curious2:
    the data leaked was amounting to 1.2 Terabytes which is saying that you have to watch 300 feature length films to know it completely. As far as I know, these names along with their details are currently being analyzed by the media.Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Apr 6, 2016 - 5:05PM

    Search technics are available to obtain the desired information in a jiffy. No one reads the pages [in millions] top to bottom, initially.Recommend

  • Molana Diesel
    Apr 6, 2016 - 7:37PM

    Are we Pakistanis optimistic that these leaks will topple Sharifs. Recommend

  • Rollin & Trollin
    Apr 6, 2016 - 10:33PM

    @Molana Diesel:
    No, but we are jolly well optimistic that these scoundrels (you note from the pix) will find ever more cryptic and labyrinthine measures to hide their Ill gotten wealthRecommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Apr 6, 2016 - 11:20PM

    @Molana Diesel:
    No, but we are wholeheartedly optimistic that this veritable rogues gallery will soon include the likes of their progeny !Recommend

  • Parvez
    Apr 6, 2016 - 11:27PM

    When one will dig into this deeper…..they will find that these rich people have avoided paying tax, whitening black money, etc WITHOUT breaking the law of the land….because the laws were amended by them in advance years ago to allow all this. Their actions may be legal on paper but certainly not morally or ethically correct.Recommend

  • observer
    Apr 7, 2016 - 4:05AM

    That great patriot and commando Musharraf’s name is also in the list.Recommend

  • AJ
    Apr 7, 2016 - 6:20AM

    Not a single American implicated yet, how ironic! and they are the one coined the term “Offshore Banking” back in the day when the rest were still learning about the basic banking. Just a usual arm twisting of a few by the West who in their opinion are beginning to toe a different line and they view them as unfavorable.Recommend

  • AJ
    Apr 7, 2016 - 6:22AM

    Not a single American implicated yet, how ironic! and they are the one coined the term “Offshore Banking” back in the day when the rest were still learning about the basic banking. Just a usual arm twisting of a few by the West who in their opinion are beginning to toe a different line or they view them as unfavorable.Recommend

  • excalibur
    Apr 7, 2016 - 9:55AM

    @observer:
    stop peddling wrong information. Musharraf is not in the list of roguesRecommend

  • syed & syed
    Apr 9, 2016 - 1:46AM

    As said and discussed offshore business is not a crime. But it is a crime when Shareef family purchased flats before selling the Industry in 2005 in Saudi Arabia.What was the source of this investment It becomes a crime when a person holding key position in the government and those sitting in parliament are involved. An article in the daily News regarding this subject is very comprehensive. PM of Iceland resigns. PM of UK clarified his position that he sold his shares much before he contested for the post. If Nawaz Shareef was honest he should have listened to the wife of Shahbaz Shareef instead of Ch Nisar going around the world with a begging bowl. The Supreme Court should take a Suo moto action and all parliamentarians and there sons and daughter and wives be put on ECL and debarred from holding any office pending inquiry. Armed forces be asked to assist to close the doors of parliament and PM house..Recommend

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