Panama Papers exposed leaders, criminals, celebrities... - EDITORIAL

16 July 2018 12:05 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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ormer Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were arrested by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials upon their arrival in Lahore on Friday night (13 July), and subsequently whisked away to Islamabad on a chartered flight..   
In July 2017, just when Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif was a year away from becoming the first premier to complete a full term in office, he was ousted. The country’s Supreme Court disqualified him from office and referred the issue of his family’s offshore assets to anti-corruption authorities.  


Former Prime Minister Sharif was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison and fined $10.6 million on corruption charges linked to revelations in the 2016 Panama Papers regarding Sharif’s family’s properties overseas.  In April 2016, an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ (ICIJ) probe based on files leaked from Panamanian offshore provider Mossack Fonseca revealed details of 11.5 million secret files of 140 politicians from more than 50 countries connected to offshore companies in 21 tax havens.   


Following investigations after the documents were leaked, Pakistans Anti-Graft Court also sentenced Sharif’s daughter Maryam and his son-in-law Safdar.  
Sharif was sentenced after failing to explain how his family acquired luxury flats in London. The leaked documents showed the Sharif family owned apartments through off-shore companies.   
 However Sharif is not the only world leader to be exposed by the ICIJ documents. The documents revealed current and former world leaders in the data include the Prime Minister of Iceland, the President of Ukraine, and the King of Saudi Arabia and a host of others  
Iceland’s Premier Gunnlaugsson was the first political casualty of the Panama Papers -- forced to step down after people took to the streets demanding his resignation.  


Then-British Prime Minister David Cameron’s late father was among those identified in relation to investments set up by Mossack Fonseca. The British PM’s office said the family’s tax affairs were a private matter.  The leak also uncovered a suspected money laundering ring involving close associates of Russian President, Vladimir Putin.  
A close friend of President Putin was put at the top of the offshore empire worth more than $2 billion which has made this circle extremely wealthy. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports were aimed at discrediting the Russian President. He also claimed the journalists involved were “former officials from the (US) Department of State, the CIA and other special services”.  The list does not end here, hidden in 11.5 million secret files of 140 politicians from more than 50 countries connected to offshore companies in 21 tax havens.   


Sri Lanka too, found mention in the Panama Papers and there was speculation names of major political players and or other corrupt individuals would be revealed by the government which was elected to power on an anti-corruption ticket.   
Deputy Minister of Public Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne, said at that time, the names of Sri Lankan politicians and companies featured in the Panama Papers and revelations would soon be made.   


Addressing the Media at the Government Information Department on April 7, he said the ‘Panama Papers’ exposure may help divulge important information regarding local politicians and their friends and relatives whose accounts were circulated through banks in Seychelles and Dubai earlier.  
However, despite two long years having passed, we have yet to hear of Sri Lankan politicians or corporates having been investigated regarding revelations made in the Panama Papers.    Nor is it surprising that, Sri Lanka’s then Central Bank Chief Arjuna Mahendran -- infamous for his role in the country’s billion $ bond scam scandal -- in an interview carried in the ‘Daily Mirror’ saying “...the authenticity of the so-called leaks was doubtful and therefore, couldn’t reveal any names of individuals, due to privacy laws...  


As a colleague put it, Sri Lanka’s politicians are incorruptible..., our officials are not tainted by corruption, none of our business leaders or corporates is corrupt.   
We are an incorruptible people...  
The lyrics in ‘Lankawe ape Lankawe’, sung by the popular group ‘Gypsies’ in their famous sataire come to mind:   “Where do you find honest and audacious people?... in Sri Lanka... in Sri Lanka”  
“Let the Americans and the British come and learn from us...”
Despite the ‘writing on the wall’ staring us in the face, we Sri Lankans like to make out that we are pure and Lilly-white, like the national dress leading politicos love to don.   

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