Posts Tagged ‘Mossack Fonseca’

Pakistan’s ex-PM Sharif names brother Shahbaz as successor — Ruling against him slammed by the media as a “judicial coup”

July 29, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The announcement charts a way forward for Pakistan after the Supreme Court ousted Sharif Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif named his brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab province, as his successor and nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim premier in a defiant speech Saturday.The announcement charts a way forward for Pakistan after the Supreme Court ousted Sharif Friday following an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing to an unceremonious end his historic third term in power and briefly plunging the country into political uncertainty.

“I support Shahbaz Sharif after me but he will take time to contest elections so for the time being I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi,” Sharif said in a televised speech to his party.

The younger Sharif holds only a provincial seat, so must be elected to the national assembly before becoming the new prime minister.

Earlier Saturday the Election Commission of Pakistan confirmed fresh elections would be held in Nawaz Sharif’s former constituency.

Abbasi is set to be rubber-stamped as placeholder in a parliamentary vote, with Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz commanding a majority in the 342-seat house.

The opposition could also field a candidate for the premiership, though the nominee has little chance of getting sufficient votes.

Nawaz Sharif became the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history — roughly half of which was under military rule — to be ousted before completing a full term.

The decision sent his political opposition into the streets handing out sweets and beating drums in celebration.

But Pakistanis were divided on whether it set the country’s democratic progress back, with supporters, commentators and some corners of the country’s press slamming the ruling as a “judicial coup”.

– ‘Honest’ –

The court said in its judgement that it was disqualifying Sharif for failing to disclose his monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) from a company owned by his son in the United Arab Emirates.

Sharif did not withdraw the salary, court documents show, but the five-member bench ruled his failure to disclose its existence meant he was not “honest” — a requirement for Pakistani politicians under the country’s Constitution.

Opposition leader Imran Khan, who has spearheadead the push against Sharif, hailed the verdict as ushering in a new dawn for Pakistan.

But some observers slammed it as “political” and a “technicality”, with rights campaigner and lawyer Asma Jahangir telling private Geo television late Friday that the powerful military was using the courts to destabilise democracy.

The military had an antagonistic relationship with Sharif, who had made several overtures to improve relations with nuclear arch-rival India.

Sharif’s link to the UAE company was exposed as part of an investigation into corruption allegations against his family that erupted as a result of the Panama Papers leak last year.

The publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful implicated three of Sharif’s four children — daughter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein.

Claims about the lavish lifestyles and luxury London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty played out for months in endless loops in the country’s raucous news media.

Bribery and other forms of graft are endemic in Pakistan. The PML-N has consistently and noisily denied the accusations, insisting that the dynasty’s wealth was acquired legally through Sharif family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.

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With Sharif Gone in Pakistan, What Happens To China’s Investments?

July 29, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

China has a lot riding on Pakistan, that’s where its showpiece Belt and Road project is located

BY TOM HUSSAIN

29 JUL 2017

China has been assured by Pakistan’s powerful military and politicians that its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road investments would not be disrupted by the landmark verdict on Friday that felled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, even though some of its investments could come under the widening corruption probe currently playing havoc with Pakistani politics.

Speaking at a July 12 conference, Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said it was his “dream” to see Pakistan become a middle income economy at the conclusion of the US$62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (Cpec) programme in 2030.

“China would likely urge the government, and the military for that matter, to move as quickly as possible to effect a peaceful transfer of power. China has a strong incentive to see through a smooth transition, and Pakistan, because of the deep significance it ascribes to Cpec, does as well,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asian programme at The Woodrow Wilson Centre.

Sharif was disqualified after the court invoked character-related clauses in the constitution against him for lying about the source of finances channelled through offshore Panamanian companies into luxury apartments in the prestigious Mayfair area of London.

Panama papers: defiant Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif lashes out at ‘slander’ of family as panel probes wealth

The Sharif family’s offshore companies came to light after the leaking of Panama Papers documents in April 2016 from the legal firm Mossack Fonseca. The court ordered the government’s National Accountability Bureau to prepare charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud against Sharif and his three adult children. An accountability court will deliver its verdict on the charges by mid-October.

Finance minister Ishaq Dar, the architect of Pakistan’s economic recovery from a decade-long Taliban insurgency, was also disqualified from holding public office and faces separate corruption charges.

Friday’s verdict has raised the prospect of a broader judiciary-driven process of accountability against elected politicians, including Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of populous Punjab province, who has played a leading role in Cpec negotiations. As the brother of the dismissed prime minister, he is a leading contender to succeed him.

The Supreme Court is already hearing a petition under the constitution’s character-related clauses against opposition leader Imran Khan, one of three politicians to petition the court against Nawaz Sharif.

“The Chinese will be somewhat concerned at the moment. Although Beijing has a good working relationship with all the major political parties in Pakistan, they would prefer a degree of stability and continuity in order to make the execution of the Cpec projects as smooth a process as possible,” said Andrew Small, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund and author of the The China-Pakistan Axis.

Despite the assurances it has received, the court’s ruling has put China in a “peculiar position”, said Arif Rafiq, non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute, a US think tank.

Sharif was disqualified after the court invoked character-related clauses of Pakistan’s constitution against him for lying about the source of finances channelled through offshore Panamanian companies into luxury apartments in the prestigious Mayfair area of London. Photo: Reuters

“The Chinese are treading into new waters: this is the first civilian government in Islamabad Beijing has fully invested in. [But] while the Communist Party of China is deeply leveraged in the civilian government, military-to-military ties also continue to strengthen,” he said.

Nonetheless, some Cpec projects are bound to be investigated because of existing allegations of corruption linked to the Sharifs.

“Some projects, such as the Port Qasim Coal Power Project, could come under greater scrutiny given the involvement of power brokers allegedly connected to Sharif family financial improprieties,” Rafiq said.

Pakistan’s dependence on China for much of its defence needs against common rival India would reinforce its commitment to Cpec, which is forecast to drive GDP growth to 6 per cent by the completion of US$19 billion of projects by the end of fiscal year 2019-20.

“With the US-Pakistan relationship in decline, and with the PLA’s technological capabilities having improved so much, this now matters even more to Pakistan than it did when the US was seen as the critical supplier of high-end conventional equipment,” Small said.

Likewise, Pakistan is being upheld by Beijing as a model for the deeper, expanding security relationships China is seeking to establish around the world.

More than 20,000 rally in Islamabad, calling for Sharif to resign as PM

“Add to this the increasingly challenging Sino-Indian relationship and Chinese concerns about stabilising its western periphery in the context of the situation in Xinjiang and you have several reasons for the obvious deepening of Sino-Pakistani ties in the last couple of years – which I would expect to continue,” Small said.

Pakistan also needs China’s diplomatic support amid rising tensions with the US over Afghanistan, which has already seen Washington withdraw subsidies for American military hardware. The Pentagon last week withheld partial reimbursement for Pakistani counter-terrorist operations on the grounds that Islamabad had not acted to prevent cross-border terrorist attacks by the Taliban and other militant groups on Indian forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month shuttled between Pakistan and Afghanistan to reduce tensions over the failure of both countries to prevent cross-border terrorist attacks from their respective territory. His efforts led to agreements on the verification of counter terrorism operations by China and the US.

China has repeatedly blocked Indian moves in the United Nations Security Council to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. It has also vetoed India’s US-backed attempts to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which would grant international legitimacy to its strategic weapons programme but withhold it from Pakistan.

“Beijing has come to bat for Islamabad in international forums many times in the past few years, even as Western and Indian observers had expected the Chinese to join in on a campaign to pressure Pakistan,” Rafiq said.

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Pakistani Police Detain 1,500 in Crackdown on Opposition

October 31, 2016

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani police launched a nation-wide crackdown overnight, arresting at least 1,500 supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan ahead of an opposition rally planned later this week in Islamabad, officials said Monday.

The arrests followed intermittent clashes over the weekend between Khan’s supporters and riot police in the capital that saw police using tear gas and batons to fight stone-throwing activists.

The violence erupted again Monday when police fired tear gas on nearly 3,000 supporters on a main highway some 80 kilometer northwest of Islamabad. Khan’s party rules in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and its chief minister, Pervez Khattak, and some cabinet ministers led the protesters.

Police official Hussain Awan said the protesters pelted police with stones and bricks and chanted slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had warned Sunday that the government would extend protocol to Khattak if he arrived in the capital formally but that he would be dealt with strictly if he led the protesters.

On Monday, a Pakistani court barred Khan’s followers from demonstrating on Islamabad streets, restricting the rally to within the limits of a city park, said government prosecutor Saddique Awan. As of last week, the government has already enforced a two-month ban on street rallies in the capital.

Khan’s attorney Babar Awan said the party would appeal. The party has called for massive street demonstrations for Wednesday, threatening to lock down Islamabad in a bid to force Sharif to resign.

Sharif has been under pressure after his family members were named as holders of offshore bank accounts in leaked financial documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Police have conducted raids based on tips and information about planned violence, said government spokesman Zaeem Qadri. Those who pledge not to take part in violent actions are released, while those considered a threat remain in custody pending charges, he said.

Two security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said the number of those arrested overnight ranges between 1,500 and 1,800. Punjab provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah said 838 supporters were arrested.

Police have placed shipping containers on key highways leading to Islamabad to stop Khan’s party’s convoys from across Pakistan from reaching the capital.

The interior minister said Khan’s followers had violent plans, which included the storming of government offices.

Khan’s close aide Shah Mahmood Qureshi alleged that the police were manhandling and roughing up the family members of the workers. “The police are also trespassing on the houses of our leaders and activists,” he said. He said two senior leaders of the party were forcibly bundled in a police van. Both were later released on orders from the interior minister.

Sanaullah denied any manhandling.

___

Associated Press Writer Zaheer Babar in Lahore, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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Pakistan vows to crush anti-government protests

October 31, 2016

Opposition leader Imran Khan calls for a ‘lockdown’ of the capital, Islamabad

Supporters of Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan chanted antigovernment slogans outside his residence in Islamabad on Friday.
Supporters of Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan chanted antigovernment slogans outside his residence in Islamabad on Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The government of Pakistan vowed on Sunday to prevent an opposition political protest planned for later this week, amid tension between the administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s powerful military.

Police blocked roads into the capital, Islamabad, over the weekend after prominent opposition leader Imran Khan, who is leading the protest movement, on Thursday said he would paralyze the city with what he called a “lockdown.” Mr. Khan and his supporters have called for a Wednesday start to protests aimed at preventing government offices from functioning.

Mr. Khan is protesting what he alleges is corruption by Mr. Sharif, which Mr. Sharif denies, after it emerged that the prime minister’s family owned offshore companies. Police and paramilitary forces have surrounded Mr. Khan’s home, on a hilltop outside Islamabad, and dozens of his supporters have been arrested.

The government is at odds with the armed forces over a range of issues, including information leaked to a newspaper about a meeting between top government and military officials. The fallout led to the resignation of information minister Pervaiz Rashid over the weekend.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in a news conference Sunday that the government doesn’t object to peaceful protests, but a lockdown of Islamabad won’t be permitted. He claimed that the closing of roads to the capital had stopped 1,200 armed protesters from reaching Islamabad.

“Lockdown of the capital is not just a crime against the government, it’s a crime against the state,” said the interior minister, who isn’t related to the opposition leader.

Imran Khan, a cricketer turned politician, leads Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the third-largest party in parliament. He insists all his supporters are peaceful.

“There is an impression being created that we’re going to cause unrest, but we’ve never been involved in the politics of guns. Peaceful protest is our democratic right,” Mr. Khan said Sunday.

Mr. Sharif was prime minister twice before, in the 1990s, and both his governments were cut short by military intervention before the completion of his terms in office. Since democracy was restored in 2008 after the most-recent spell of military rule, the armed forces have said they support democracy and aren’t involved in politics. Mr. Sharif returned to power by sweeping the 2013 election.

But Mr. Sharif fears that history is about to repeat itself, his advisers say, with a case being built against him again on alleged corruption and the suggestion that he is a national-security risk.

“We know this script,” said an aide.

A 2014 demonstration led by Imran Khan, which lasted four months, weakened the premier and forced the government to cede to the army more sway over policy, Mr. Sharif’s aides say. They allege Mr. Khan was supported then by parts of the military—something he and the military deny.

The military and the government have continued to tussle over the levers of power. Government officials say that army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif is pressing the government to extend his term, which is due to end in late November. The military denies that, saying Gen. Sharif wants to retire on time. He isn’t related to the prime minister.

The two sides have clashed over the military’s desire to expand its counterterrorism operations to the prime minister’s home province of Punjab, Mr. Sharif’s policy of outreach to rival India and control of the $46 billion program of Chinese infrastructure investment into Pakistan.

Dawn, a Pakistani daily newspaper, this month reported Mr. Sharif’s administration had complained to the military that inaction against jihadist groups targeting neighboring countries was leading to international isolation. The military says it is cracking down on all terrorists. Both the military and the government have described the article, which led to Mr. Rashid’s resignation, as “fabricated.”

Mr. Khan is demanding the prime minister resign or “submit himself for accountability” after Mr. Sharif’s children were named as owners of fancy London apartments through offshore holding companies in reports based on documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca & Co., a Panama-based law firm.

The reports, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists earlier this year, didn’t allege any wrongdoing. Mr. Sharif’s opponents accuse him of laundering ill-gained wealth through offshore companies. The Sharif family has denied any wrongdoing, saying its wealth is based on legitimate businesses.

“We’re doing this [protest] because the prime minister was caught red-handed, because of the Panama Papers,” Mr. Khan said Sunday.

Mr. Sharif had said Friday that Mr. Khan wants to harm his government because the opposition are worried the ruling party will win the next election, due in 2018.

“Pakistan is on its way to becoming a developed country. That’s what concerns the opposition,” Mr. Sharif said on Friday. “If this development continues in Pakistan until 2018, their politics will be finished.”

Write to Saeed Shah at saeed.shah@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/pakistan-says-it-will-quash-planned-political-protest-1477848826

US hedge fund sues ‘Panama Papers’ law firm

June 8, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | New York tycoon Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. accused the law firm, Mossack Fonseca, of helping Argentine clients hide money

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal is under fresh attack, facing a lawsuit from the powerful US hedge fund that successfully sued Argentina.

New York tycoon Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. accused the law firm, Mossack Fonseca, of helping Argentine clients hide money as Elliott was pursuing the Argentine government to pay off defaulted bonds.

The lawsuit filed in a Nevada court in late May and obtained by AFP Wednesday focuses on Mossack Fonseca’s business of setting up anonymously-owned companies and trusts for clients often seeking to hide funds offshore from tax and legal officials.

In the Panama Papers dossier of records stolen from the company and revealed in April, Mossack Fonseca is shown as having facilitated the creation of more than 200,000 secret offshore companies.

The lawsuit says that while it was pursuing its claims against Argentina, in 2014 Elliott’s unit NML Capital sought help in identifying and tracing assets linked to some shell companies registered in Nevada.

But it said that Mossack Fonseca, though having evident close links to “MF Nevada” — a corporate services provider linked to those shell companies — insisted in the court that the two only had very limited ties.

For that reason, Mossack Fonseca insisted it could not provide the data the NML wanted.

The release of the Panama Papers in April, the new suit said, included documents that demonstrated the two firms were in fact “inextricably entwined” and that Mossack Fonseca had obstructed justice by not cooperating to provide the information required.

The documents “reveal that MF Nevada and Mossack Fonseca knowingly, willfully, and wrongfully obstructed NML’s discovery efforts and attempted to impede the court’s proper exercise of its jurisdiction,” the lawsuit said.

The suit says that because Mossack Fonseca’s evasive tactics resulted in numerous hearings and filings, NML “should be reimbursed for the very substantial legal fees it incurred as a result.”

The lawsuit comes just weeks after Argentina finally gave up its 15 year fight against NML and other hedge funds and paid off their bonds in a multi-billion dollar deal that earned NML huge profits.

Argentina had branded NML a “vulture” for buying its defaulted debt on the cheap and litigating for full payment.

Hong Kong Remains “Unsettled” After Newspaper Editor at Ming Pao Fired — Increasing Influence from Mainland China Feared

May 3, 2016

By Al Jazeera

Hong Kong: Freedom of the Press rally outside the Ming Pao Industrial Centre, Monday, May 2, 2016. AP photo

Hundreds of people have protested in Hong Kong against a veteran newspaper editor’s dismissal that has increased concerns about press freedom in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The sacking of Keung Kwok-yuen, Ming Pao daily’s second-in-command editor, came after the newspaper published a report on the Panama Papers document leak revealing offshore business dealings of the rich and powerful.

Hong Kong police drew their guns and confronted the “fish ball protesters” in Mong Kok on New Years.

The newspaper said Keung was dismissed to save operating costs.

Journalists, activists and politicians attended Monday’s rally, held outside the Ming Pao Industrial Centre.


READ MORE: Panama Papers – huge leak alleges elites hiding money


Protesters carried signs saying “Protect journalists, protect Ming Pao, protect press freedom”.

Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke, reporting from the protest, said: “The anger is not only confined to this particular newspaper but is spread around the whole news industry in Hong Kong.

“Some say that the city’s press freedoms have been steeply eroded by the increasing influence from mainland China.”

Rich and powerful

The trove of documents, released in April by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has exposed how Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm, helped China’s rich and powerful to move their wealth into tax havens.

“The public is very concerned over press freedoms in Hong Kong. We have been doing a good job… covering a lot of news including sensitive political issues such as human rights in China,” AFP news agency quoted Phyllis Tsang, head of the newspaper’s staff association, as saying.

Counting the Cost – Panama Papers: Inside the shady world of tax havens

“We demand a clear explanation [from the management] on the real reasons for the firing of Mr Keung.

“Was there any relation to this kind of reporting?”

Before Keung’s dismissal, Ming Pao carried a front-page report on Hong Kong politicians and businesspeople named in the Panama Papers.

There has been growing anxiety in recent years among many Hong Kong journalists and politicians about the influence of China on the territory.

Hong Kong retained its own civil liberties when it was handed over from Britain in 1997.

Media groups with close business and personal ties to Chinese politicians have been accused of soft-pedalling their coverage of issues that are potentially embarrassing to China and its allies in Hong Kong.

101 East – Hong Kong’s Missing Booksellers

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

‘Panama Papers’ to go public May 9

April 27, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | The offices of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The “Panama Papers” trove of leaked documents revealing the vast extent of global tax evasion will be made available to the public on May 9, the organization behind the leak said Wednesday.

The searchable database will include information about more than 200,000 secret companies, trusts and foundations based in 21 tax havens “from Hong Kong to Nevada in the United States,” said the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Since early April, the ICIJ-coordinated limited release through roughly 100 media outlets of the “Panama Papers” have become a worldwide scandal, spurring numerous investigations and the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister and a Spanish minister.

About 11.5 million leaked documents of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, reveal the large-scale use of offshore entities to conceal assets from tax authorities.

In its statement, the ICIJ said that the public release next month “is the next step in our ongoing year-long investigation” and that it will continue to publish more stories in the coming weeks and months.

US opens criminal probe linked to Panama Papers tax havens and offshore money

April 20, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | Leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed how the world’s wealthy and powerful used offshore companies to stash assets

Prominent Hong Kong politicians and businessmen named in new round of Panama Papers leaks

April 20, 2016

By Stuart Lau
South China Morning Post

Former contender for chief executive Henry Tang, Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing and two cabinet members among those listed as owning offshore companies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2016, 10:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2016, 1:10pm
Several prominent Hongkongers opened offshore firms with Mossack Fonseca, according to a new Panama Papers leak. Photos: Jonathan Wong, EPA
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A number of Hong Kong politicians and businessmen – including a former contender for the chief executive post, the development minister and the richest man in town, Li Ka-shing – were named as owners of offshore companies in the latest round of Panama Papers leaks.

Two cabinet members in the Leung Chun-ying administration – Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and Executive Council member Bernard Chan – were among those named.

Li, chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings and Cheung Kong Property, was found to have opened a Panama firm with Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm from which 11 million documents were leaked to a consortium of investigative journalists.

But the most damning finding appears to involve Henry Tang Ying-yen, Hong Kong’s former chief secretary, who failed in his bid for the top job in 2012.

It was shown that three days before he was appointed commerce minister in 2002, Tang transferred his shares in Fair Alliance, a firm that ran private jet businesses, to his father in the name of a trust, to which he was the beneficiary.

Tang said he had declared the trust under Exco rules. When asked why he put down “Fairs Alliance” on the official declaration form, he called it a mistake.

His business partner was revealed to be Christopher Cheng Wai-chee, who held an equal share of Fair Alliance with Tang. Cheng, chairman of Wing Tai Properties, was appointed as a non-executive director of the Securities and Futures Commission in 2003 and the head of a review committee on competition policies in 2005 when Tang was financial secretary.

The allegations prompted Tang to issue a statement even before local media published the reports. Tang said he had made the required disclosures “in strict accordance” with the declaration of interest mechanism of the Exco and of the government.

The family of Paul Chan, meanwhile, was confirmed to be the owner of two offshore firms. This first came to light when the media reported that he owned land interests in a redeveloped area. Further investigations found that those firms helped set up other offshore firms through Mossack Fonseca.

At least one lawmaker, New People’s Party’s Michael Tien Puk-sun, admitted he did not disclose to the Legislative Council his joint ownership with his wife of a British Virgin Islands company. Tien said the firm held only the membership of a Shenzhen golf club.

Another focus in the latest round of revelations is on nationality – a sensitive issue in a city where holders of key public offices are bound to explain a non-Chinese nationality.

Lau Ming-wai, son of property tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung and chairman of the Committee on Youth, was revealed to have said he was a British national on one of the leaked documents. In response, Lau said he had no plan to switch nationality – despite his having to engage the increasingly anti-mainland youth of Hong Kong.

The same nationality was given by Lau Wong-fat, kingpin of rural powerhouse Heung Yee Kuk, who held three offshore companies.

In Macau, Ng Lap-seng, the businessman charged by US authorities with bribing former United Nations leaders, was found to have owned a BVI firm that ran South-South News, which had been granted the right to be stationed in the UN headquarters despite its lack of journalistic track record.

In response to questions from news portal HK01 – which together with Ming Pao and Next Magazine received the Hong Kong-related documents from the consortium – a UN spokesman said the status of South-South News would be reviewed.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/1937250/prominent-hong-kong-politicians-and-businessmen-named-new

China suspends G20 anti-corruption task force — China was largest market for ‘Panama Papers’ law firm

April 20, 2016

Mainland companies reportedly refuse to participate in key ‘Business 20’ anti graft body

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2016, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2016, 6:14pm
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Chinese officials and their families will be allowed to continue to loot the Chinese economy?

 China’s Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, centre, speaks at a G20 press conference in Washington on April 15. Photo: Xinhua
 Reuters

China suspended an international anti-corruption task force earlier this year after taking over the G20 presidency, according to six individuals in the group, who called it a setback to global efforts to crack down on shell companies used to conceal assets.

The so-called “Business 20” Anti-corruption Taskforce, comprising businesses and civil society groups, had been drawing up G20 policies for increasing transparency of offshore financial structures, among other work, but the body was scrapped in late January because Chinese companies declined to participate, according to the sources.

China is one of several countries under pressure to share data on paper companies after the release of the so-called Panama Papers, millions of leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealed how the rich and powerful use such structures to avoid taxes and in some cases conceal ill-gotten gains. They were published by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other international news outlets.

The B20, the G20’s business outreach arm, and its various task forces are by convention led by companies from the nation holding the presidency.

The state-run China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), this year’s head of the B20, did not provide an explanation for suspending the anti-corruption task force and did not respond to several emails, faxes and phone calls requesting comment.

But three people who had worked on the task force, who represented international, US and European institutions, said the trade group could not persuade a Chinese company to take on the role of leading the task force, even though some 150,000 Chinese businesses are effectively state-run.

The sources cited the CCPIT as saying a one-off anti-corruption convention to be held later this month would be a sufficient substitute, despite strong counter-lobbying from international businesses and NGOs.

“It’s a disappointing indictment on the environment in China that no company was willing to step forward,” said one of the sources. “This is a critical agenda and we had built up momentum, and this decision has taken the wind out of the sails.”

It’s a disappointing indictment on the environment in China that no company was willing to step forward
TASKFORCE SOURCE

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not answer directly when asked why China had suspended the task force, but said China attached a lot of importance to G20 anti-corruption cooperation and had held meetings on this.

“At the same time, China will, at the G20 business summit, which is under the framework of the B20 you mention, hold an anti-corruption forum, to promote and create a sound and clean business environment,” she told a daily news briefing, without elaborating.

The forum is scheduled to be held on April 27 in Beijing.

China has been trying to get increased international cooperation to hunt down suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas since President Xi Jinping began a war against deeply-rooted corruption when he came to power more than three years ago.

But Western countries have been reluctant to help, not wanting to send people back to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of criminal suspects remains a problem, and also complaining that China was unwilling to provide proof of their crimes.

Some of the participants on the task force, however, said they believed the Chinese government wanted to sharpen its focus this year, and remained committed to clamping down on corruption.

“We are very happy with the functioning of the anti-corruption work stream within the B20 process,” said Andrew Wilson, global communications director at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which had several executives on the task force.

We are very happy with the functioning of the anti-corruption work stream within the B20 process
ANDREW WILSON, INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

According to the B20 2016 official web site, anti-corruption efforts would comprise a forum to “continue previous efforts toward enhancing anti-corruption international cooperation, assisting anti-corruption efforts at enterprises and increasing anti-corruption dialogue between G20 and B20.”

A section on the page called “Taskforce Structure” was left blank.

The three sources and three other people on the task force said they had continued their work behind the scenes in the expectation that Germany, the next G20 president, will revive the body. A spokesman for Germany’s finance ministry who deals with G20 matters declined to comment. A spokesman for Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, Germany’s representative body within the B20, also did not comment.