The revelations by the UK firm Broadsheet have snowballed into a much greater issue after it was revealed that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif offered to bribe the owner to drop the investigations. This has prompted the government to launch an investigation to probe the matter.
Former president Musharraf established NAB which hired the firm to track down the foreign assets and ill-gotten wealth of Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats. The means which NAB used are controversial even today as political opponents decry victimisation and term the bureau a witch hunt. More than 200 prominent personalities were targeted by the Musharraf regime and many of the cases are still ongoing.
Broadsheet was hired to trace, locate and transfer funds taken fraudulently from state institutions but the company failed to recover the funds. NAB refused to pay the fees for hiring their services and the matter dragged on for several years until a London court ruled that Pakistan must pay a sum of $28 million. The matter which started as a contractual obligation has now turned into a political matter.
The owner of the firm has claimed that a Sharif family member approached him in 2012 and offered him a bribe to drop the investigations. This has been vehemently denied by the Sharif family but it is evident that such tactics will be used for possession of the Avenfield apartments.
Broadsheet wants the present government to hire their services and investigate the properties but the government does not appear to be interested and is reeling from the recent payment. A more shocking revelation was made that the firm’s owner found a bank account with $1 billion but an individual he met in 2018 was not interested in pursuing it and wanted a commission. Shehzad Akbar had denied he was the person and claimed the company skimmed them without offering anything.
It is imperative that all revelations by the company must be investigated and the government must reach the depth of it. Prime Minister Imran Khan said the revelations have once again exposed the massive scale of corruption by the ruling elites and money laundering which is the biggest threat facing the nation.
After the Panama Papers, the revelations have given an opportunity to bring the plundered wealth back which has been the defining manifesto of the PTI government. The revelations should be investigated and efforts should be made to recover the foreign assets.