LONDON: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Friday admitted that he formed an offshore company over 30 years ago so that he could dodge British taxes for purchasing a flat in London.
“I had a right to form an offshore company,” Imran told reporters shortly after landing in the British capital.
“I am not a British citizen, I did not want to pay the full taxes which would have been applicable if I sold my flat,” he said, explaining the reason for creating the offshore company, adding that he was acting on the advice of his accountant to avoid paying more tax than the 35 per cent at which his income was already being taxed.
Reports emerged on Thursday that Imran had created the company, Niazi Services Limited, in 1983 and registered in Jersey, Channel Islands. Imran used the company to purchase a flat in South Kensington in May 1984. Imran was playing cricket in England in those days.
Imran, however, claimed that he had brought all his money, earned or invested abroad, back to Pakistan.
The PTI chief, though insisted that there was nothing illegal in that adding that he never denied owning a flat in London.
“In a press conference in 2012, when they asked where I got the money for my Bani Gala residence, I showed the sales deed for the London flat from Niazi Services and from that [money] I made a house in Pakistan,” Imran explained. The flat was sold in 2003.
When the Panama Papers, a trove of documents about 200,000 offshore firms of the rich and powerful from around the globe from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, first came to light the PTI chief categorically stated that these firms were formed for only two reasons.
“The only reason people open offshore accounts through Panama is to either hide wealth, especially ill-gotten wealth, or to evade tax or both.”
Imran, however, criticised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, who were found to own offshore companies in the Mossack Fonseca database, for laundering public money.
“Mian [Nawaz Sharif] sahib and his family are among those who are destroying Pakistan. They can’t declare their source of income, nor did they use banking channels to take their money abroad, nor did they pay tax on that money,” Imran alleged adding that when money is taken out of Pakistan like that it is flight of capital and affects Pakistan’s exchange rate.
“I am among those Pakistanis who earned their money abroad and brought it back. They [Nawaz] laundered public money and took it abroad.”
Referring to the Chief Justice’s decision not to form a judicial commission to probe the Panama leaks, Imran said this was bound to happen since the court would not accept unilateral terms of references (ToRs) to investigate the matter.
“Unless the government and opposition thrash out ToRs together, the Supreme Court will not accept one-sided ToRs since any subsequent commission will become controversial and will have no standing.”
Imran also said he was excited at the prospect of asking the premier questions about offshore companies on the floor of the assembly.
“I am looking forward to asking questions from the prime minister, and he is bound to answer them,” the PTI chief said.
“What Nawaz is doing, is trying to become an emperor from whom no one can ask any question,” Imran said while responding to the premier’s stance that he would not answer prepared list of questions asked by the opposition.
“ If the opposition does not ask whether public money was laundered and laws were broken, then what is the point of the opposition, then there is no democracy,” Imran said, adding that they will exhaust all legal avenues on the Panama leaks probe before taking to the streets.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2016.