Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan has stated in a written reply to Supreme Court that he was not bound to declare that he was a beneficial owner of an offshore company.

Imran, while justifying concealing his offshore firm, took the stance that the shares were not registered in the name of the beneficial owner for offshore firms and so he did nothing wrong by not mentioning his offshore company Niazi Services.

This statement was made in reply to a petition seeking his disqualification on the basis that he himself did not disclose his offshore company, but his response can benefit his political rivals who are presently under scrutiny by the apex court pertaining to alleged offshore firms owned by Maryam Nawaz.

“Even if one is absolute owner of an offshore company, one is not bound to declare the offshore company if the shares are registered in the name of proxy directors and not registered in the owner’s name,” Imran said in his response submitted in November.

Imran demands Sharif family to present money trail and details of bank accounts but on the other hand, he himself avoided sharing details of bank accounts operated by ‘Niazi Services’ that was in service from 1983 to 2015.

According to a report by The News, the cricketer turned politician failed to provide details regarding bank accounts to the leading daily, despite a commitment by the party’s spokesperson.

In the majority of cases, offshore companies are not directly registered in the name of the actual owner and shares of the company are issued in the name of fake or proxy directors.

Usually, business tycoons take help from some financial services providing agencies to set up offshore companies and these agencies also provide proxy or fake directors for the offshore companies to be established.

Record of beneficial ownership is maintained separately and is kept under the wraps. In some cases, shares of offshore companies are issued in the name of directors and nominee directors.

Imran while admitting his offshore “Niazi Services Limited” replied that though he was the absolute owner of the offshore company yet he was not the registered shareholder of nine shares of Niazi Services Limited, there was no mandatory, substantive or binding obligation to even make a disclosure.

Paragraph 7 of “Facts” given in the response of Imran Khan (answering respondent) reads: ‘Since

‘Since purchase of property in the UK is undertaken through solicitors, the answering respondent was advised that the London apartment be placed in the name of a juridical entity with the answering respondent remaining its sole beneficial owner, having paid the entire sale price. Consequently, Niazi Services Limited (NSL) was incorporated with a total subscribed capital of GBP9 and its only asset was the London apartment, whose absolute owner was the answering respondent. Three shares each were held by three other companies who submitted the requisite returns.’

Paragraph 5 of the “preliminary objections” given in response by Imran Khan (answering respondent) reads:

‘The allegations and averments of non-declaration of offshore company or its intentional, willful concealment is totally misconceived. The only asset under NSL being the London apartment was sold in April 2003. The total issued share capital of NSL was GBP9 which was not held in the name of the answering respondent. Once the only asset was sold, the NSL existed on paper only, without any asset. Since the answering respondent was not the registered shareholders of the 9 shares (of GBP1 each) of NSL, there was no mandatory, substantive or binding obligation to even make a disclosure.’

What can add an element of interest to the sub-judice Panama case in the Supreme Court against the Sharif family is Imran’s agreement with the opinion that beneficial owner does not need to declare the offshore firm.

Currently, it is being argued if Hussain Nawaz or Maryam Nawaz is the beneficial owner of the offshore companies Nielsen and Nescoll.

However, for either case, the registered shares of offshore companies are in the name of proxy directors (of Minerva Financial Services) which means that, according to the logic of the PTI chairman and the stance taken by him before the apex court, it is not mandatory for Nawaz Sharif’s children to declare the offshore companies.

The stance opted by PTI chief regarding non-declaration can dent his Panama case in the apex court as the Sharif family can simply take the same stance forward to convince the larger bench of their clean financial background.

Haneef Abbasi of PML-N had in November last year filed a petition seeking disqualification of Imran Khan on the basis that he concealed his offshore firms in his statement of assets and liabilities submitted to the ECP while filing his nomination papers for contesting different general elections, including that of 2013.