5 Asian politicians exposed in the Paradise Papers
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5 Asian politicians exposed in the Paradise Papers

AN immense haul of 13.4 million leaked documents dubbed the “Paradise Papers” have been published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) exposing the offshore banking activities of more than 120 politicians around the world.

The leak is the latest to reveal the murky world of offshore banking where shell companies allow the wealthy, big business, heads of state and global figures to conduct business largely in secret in known tax havens.

According to the ICIJ, the documents include nearly seven million loan agreements, financial statements, emails, trust deeds and other paperwork from nearly 50 years at Appleby, a leading offshore law firm with offices in Bermuda and beyond. The documents also include files from a smaller, family-owned trust company, Asiaciti, and from company registries in 19 secrecy jurisdictions.

Among the over a hundred of people named in the documents were a number of prominent Asian politicians of yesteryear and some that are still in office today.

Prabowo Subianto – Indonesia Opposition party leader (2008 – present)

Prabowo-Subianto

Prabowo Subianto (centre) at a rally. October 1, 2017. Source: Facebook

Leader of opposition Gerindra party, this former general narrowly missed out on the presidency in 2014 and has said he intends to run again in 2019.

The papers show that Prabowo was director and deputy chairman of Bermuda-registered Nusantara Energy Resources. The company registered in 2001 was listed as a “bad debtor,” according to Appleby’s records and was closed in 2004.

As a result of the leak, Indonesian authorities are investigating if the former presidential candidate is in breach of the country’s tax laws. According to Bloomberg, The tax office will scrutinise financial disclosures made by Prabowo in the past to check against information contained in the documents.

The tax office will assess the opposition leaders assets included in tax returns and declarations made under Indonesia’s tax amnesty programme which ended in March, Hestu Yoga Saksama, a spokesman for the Directorate General of Taxes, told Bloomberg.

Deputy chairman of the Gerindra party Fadli Zon has denied that Prabowo has any connection to Nusantara Energy Resources, according to ICIJ. He also denied that the company was established to avoid taxes and said that it has not been active since it was founded.

Tommy Suharto and Mamiek Suharto – Children of former Indonesian president Suharto

Both the youngest son, Hutomo Mandala Putra (Tommy Suharto), and the youngest daughter, Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih (Mamiek), of Indonesian dictator Suharto appeared in the ICIJ report.

According to the papers, Tommy was the director and chairman of the board of Asia Market Investments Ltd., a company registered in Bermuda in 1997 and closed in 2000. Mamiek Suharto was the vice president of Golden Spike Pasiriaman Ltd. and the beneficial owner and chairman of Golden Spike South Sumatra Ltd. which were registered in Bermuda in the 1990s and are now closed.

Indonesia’s tax office confirmed to Bloomberg the Suharto’s financial disclosures will also be investigated alongside Prabowo.

Tommy Suharto has previously been convicted of corruption and of ordering the assassination of a judge.

Shaukat Aziz – Former Pakistan’s prime minister (2004 – 2007)

Shaukat Aziz served as the prime minister of Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, soon after completing a five-year stint as the country’s finance minister.

In 1999, the year he was appointed finance minister, Aziz created the Antarctic Trust, which was “constituted [in the United States] for the benefit of the Settlor’s family,” the report reads. The trust does not appear in the financial disclosure statements Aziz submitted from 2003 to 2006, while he was finance minister and prime minister.

When asked why Aziz failed to declare the Antarctic Trust, Aziz’s lawyer told ICIJ the “legal owner” of the trust was Citicorp Trust Delaware NA, not Aziz, and that Aziz and his family members paid all US taxes they owed.

A 2012 internal memo uncovered in the leak showed an Appleby’s compliance officer noted that Aziz had been accused by the opposition of false declaration of assets, corruption and misappropriation of funds.

Aziz was also labelled a “high-risk client” by the firm after it was noted that a Pakistani court had issued three arrest warrants against the former PM in relation to the killing of a local leader.

Ravindra Kishore Sinha – Member of Parliament, India (2014 – Present)

Founder of private security service firm Security and Intelligence Services (SIS) and Bharatiya Janata Party member RK Sinha is listed as a minority shareholder and director of SIS Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd (SAPHL). The company was registered in Malta in 2008 and is a subsidiary of SIS. Sinha’s wife is also listed as a director of SAPHL.

Sinha made no mention of his connection to SAPHL in his affidavit to the Election Commission during his nomination for the upper house election in 2014. He did not declare this link to the upper house after becoming a member either.

Sinha told ICIJ that he has “no direct interest” in SIS Asia Pacific Holdings and that he holds one share in the entity “on behalf” of SIS, “and not in my personal capacity.”