Thursday April 18, 2024

Nawaz’s name mistakenly appears in news on Panama Papers: ICIJ

By Ahmad Noorani
April 27, 2016

Says it was editing error; PM’s name removed from web data; original Panama Papers do not contain his name; Daniyal Aziz in complaint to International Consortium of Investigative Journalists pinpoints many loopholes, seeks apology and warns of legal action

ISLAMABAD: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which unearthed the Panama Papers containing details of offshore companies, has removed the name of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from all its news stories.

In its earlier stories titled “Panama Papers The Power Players” and “Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption”, the ICIJ had declared that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif controls offshore companies. The ICIJ had declared that the name of Nawaz Sharif was included in the data. The exact quotes about Nawaz in earlier stories were as follows: “The files exposed offshore companies controlled by the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia and the children of the president of Azerbaijan.”

However, the ICIJ has now issued a clarification reading: “Due to an editing error, a sentence in an earlier version of this story implied that the prime minister of Pakistan controlled an offshore company that appeared in the Panama Papers. It is his children who control the offshore companies.”

Under the above mentioned stories, the ICIJ website has now also clarified that “Hasan and Hussain Nawaz Sharif's visualizations were updated on April 21, 2016.”

The development apparently took place after Daniyal Aziz, a PML-N MNA, wrote a complaint to the ICIJ about inaccuracies and discrepancies in its reports about Nawaz Sharif. The ICIJ has updated its website and removed all the wrong facts on April 21, 2016. The letter sent to the ICIJ reads:

“Editor, I refer to the content of different statements contained in reports published on your ICIJ website pertaining to the Sharif family of Pakistan, Maryam Safdar, Hassan Sharif and Hussain Sharif and the patently baseless and malicious reference to Nawaz Sharif who is also the current prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. There are numerousdiscrepancies in the content of your published reports as well as the malicious misrepresentation of facts ostensibly in your knowledge creating a baseless impression of wrongdoing.

“Your report referring to Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Safdar, Hussain Sharif and Hassan Sharif is supported by four documents which include: 1. Two letters both dated June22, 2012 containing a response by Mossack Fonseca and Co (B.V.I) LTD to queries apparently raised by the Director Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands, 2. A share transfer form in respect of the transfer of ten shares of Hangon Property Holdings Ltd to Hassan Sharif and, 3. An agreement executed by Coomber Group Inc as pledger signed by Maryam Safdar and Hussain Sharif.

“In addition to these documents, your published reports also contain three interactive charts linked to the respective names of Maryam Safdar, Hussain Sharif and Hassan Sharif claiming to represent their ownership of different companies. This being the limit of the data or evidence disclosed by you, the content of your reports must withstand the test of being substantiated by the disclosed data.

“The following are the undeniable specific errors contained in your published reports: 1. The link to “explore the data” connected to Maryam Safdar and Hassan Sharif opens exactly the same charted data which is limited to reference of Maryam Safdar and not that of Hassan Sharif.

Therefore, the chart currently placed under the link of my brother Hassan Nawaz is false and erroneous and requires to be corrected. 2. The link to “explore the data” connected to Hussain Sharif opens a chart connected to companies linked with Hassan Nawaz.

Therefore, the chart currently placed under the link of Hussain Nawaz is also false and erroneous and requires to be corrected. 3. Upon clicking Maryam Safdar in these charts, it is represented that Maryam Safdar is not as of December 2015, being the date till you represent the data to be updated, a politically exposed person (PEP).

On the contrary, in your report titled the Power Players, you have stated that Mossack Foncesca knew that Maryam Safdar was the daughter of Nawaz Sharif and had since July 2012 treated her as a politically exposed person carrying out by-annual checks on Maryam Safdar’s activities.

“Undeniably, one of the abovementioned representations by you is false and requires correction. 4. In your report titled “giant leak of offshore financial record exposes global array of crime and corruption”, you have made the two following patently false statements which contradict your own record: The files exposed offshore companies controlled by the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia and the children of the president of Azerbaijan.

“The above-quoted two statements are undeniable without any basis or substantiated by any record as none of the companies disclosed by you as per your own record have any control thereon by Nawaz Sharif. In fact, you yourself state later in the same report that “the children of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also owned London real estate through companies created by Mossack Fonseca”. The same is repeated in your report titled “the Power Players”. Therefore, by your own admission, you have made a false statement that any offshore company was or is “controlled” by the prime minister of Pakistan. This grave and gross error requires immediate correction.

“The abovementioned undeniable and patent errors are being brought to your attention as required by you in your statement contained on your website requesting that any errors be brought to your attention. I expect that a statement will be placed on your website duly confirming that such statements were erroneous and stand corrected.

“In addition to the afore-stated errors, I point out below the specific statements contained in your published reports which are unsubstantiated by any data disclosed by you, and consequently leads to one of only two possible conclusions that these statements are either based on further record available with you, which has been purposely withheld or are based on mere hearsay and are therefore presumptions at best.

In both cases, it leads to the undeniable and singular conclusion that a selective set of facts has been cherry-picked from the complete canvas of facts to create a patently false impression of wrongdoing on the part of Hussain Sharif, Hassan Sharif and Maryam Safdar, and, by linkage, a vicious allegation against the prime minister of Pakistan’s credibility.

There can be no doubt that there exists mala fide intent and to publicly defame the prime minister of Pakistan and raise insinuations to his conduct which to your knowledge are incapable of being substantiated by the material or data disclosed by you or which you indirectly seek to refer to in your reports.

The end goal can only be a heinous attempt to destabilize the democratically-elected leader of Pakistan and the government of Pakistan to benefit vested interests who stand to gain from such propaganda. Needless to point out that your publication of these false reports have been extensively used by the media in Pakistan and globally to instigate a manoeuvred public outcry and are fodder for those vested interests who have consistently sought to pressurize and destabilize the elected government of Pakistan.

1. Your report titled “the Power Players” states “Inside the Mossack Fonseca data, offshore companies owned United Kingdom properties”. None of the documents and data disclosed by you contains a mention of any property in the United Kingdom owned by any of these companies. Notwithstanding if any properties are owned by any of these companies, your statement of fact has no basis as disclosed by you. 2. In your report titled “the Power Players”, you state that Maryam Safdar was the owner of Nielsen Enterprises Ltd and Nescoll Ltd, which were incorporated in 1994 and 1993, respectively. Firstly, none of the documents or data as disclosed by you confirms that these companies were incorporated in these years, hence, it begs the question where you acquired that information from. Secondly, the only fact regarding these two companies which can be potentially substantiated by data disclosed by you is that in 2012, Maryam Safdar was the “beneficial owner” of these companies and that each of these companies had a loan account with Deutsche Bank, Geneva.

However, you have sought to create a vague impression that Maryam Safdar in some way owned these companies or their assets since 1994 and 1993, respectively. 3. You then proceed to make a statement that these two companies own “a UK property each for use by the family”. You have apparently quoted some documents to that effect as per your report but failed to identify that documents or disclose the same or disclose the identity of the UK property. 4. In your report titled “the Power Players”, you state that Hussain Sharif and Maryam Safdar executed documents dated June 2007 as part of “a series of transactions” consequent to which Deutsche Bank, Geneva lent $13.8 million to Nescoll, Neilson and another company. The only document you have disclosed is the afore-mentioned agreement of June 27, 2007, which does not disclose either the value of the loan or the beneficiaries. Since your statement represents that you are aware of the series of transactions pertaining to the loans which you could not have been aware of unless you had in your possession the necessary detailed loan documentation, it raises the obvious question as to why you have not disclosed those documents as well as the identity of the third company or clarified that these are not facts within your knowledge. 5. You have stated in your report “the Power Players” that Nescoll and Neilson were transferred to another agent in July 2014. Furthermore, in the data linked with these two companies, you have also disclosed that these companies to your information were struck off on October 31, 2015, yet you have decided not to disclose the documents upon which these two statements of facts are based. 6. In your report titled “the Power Players”, you have stated that Hassan Sharif was the “sole director” of Hangon Property Holdings Ltd which you further state was incorporated in BVI in February 2007. The only document disclosed by you pertaining to Hangon Ltd is the share transfer form dated July 17, 2007, which only confirms that Hassan Sharif became the registered owner of 10 shares of Hangon Property Holdings Ltd on July 17, 2007. You have not disclosed any document to substantiate your statement that he was the sole director of Hangon Property Holdings Ltd and from which date he held such directorship as well as when it was incorporated. Such statements of fact are presumed to be based on documents which again have not been disclosed by you. 7. In your report titled “the Power Players”, you have stated that Hangon Property Holdings Ltd acquired Cascon Holdings Establishment Ltd for “about $11.2 million in August 2007. Firstly, the only document disclosed by you again being the share transfer form only confirms the acquisition by Hassan Sharif of 10 shares of Hangon Property Holdings Ltd from its owner Cascon Holdings Establishment Ltd for a consideration of £5.5 million and such transaction took place on July 17, 2007. Since you have not disclosed any document representing an acquisition of Cascon Holdings Establishment Ltd by Hangon Property Holdings Ltd, it can only be presumed that your statement refers to the transaction represented in the share transfer form and therefore your statement is an incorrect representation. 8. In your report titled “the Power Players”, you state that the Sharif family has been accused of corruption, ownership of illegal assets, tax avoidance and money laundering. Maryam, Hussain and their father have been detained on such charges, exiled to Saudi Arabia and also acquitted. However, you have not disclosed any document or evidence.

I refer to your statement contained on your website that a further tranche of documents and data would be released sometime in May 2016. If it is presumed that many of the given statements are based upon the data you intend to disclose in May 2016, it must be asked why you did not disclose those documents. Hence, it represents intentional withholding of the remaining data in your possession for which there can be no other reason but the fact that the complete set of facts contained therein would not have allowed you to raise the patently false insinuations and create the baseless impression that has been possible by the selective disclosure of data and statements of fact in your currently published reports. Your failure to provide valid and substantiated reasons for your omissions shall lead to the obvious conclusion of mala fide intent. However, if, on the contrary, you seek to claim that you do not have any further data or documents, your statements are admittedly presumptive and hearsay.  In the event that you are unable to explain the above-stated discrepancies and resulting conclusions, it is expected that you would immediately remove all statements and contents referring to the Sharif family including the prime minister of Pakistan and issue a public apology and admission of your error failing which I reserve my right to take an appropriate legal action against you and all those concerned in all appropriate jurisdictions in pursuance of my legal rights to redress the injury suffered as a consequence.