By Andrew Buncombe : : –
A BRITISH family has become embroiled in the scandal surrounding the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, over multimillion-pound corruption allegations.
Inquiries by The Independent have established that bank accounts containing pounds 5m were set up in the names of three members of the family from Ilford, Essex. These deposits were used to raise millions of pounds in loans which, according to documents detailing Pakistan police inquiries, were channelled into Sharif family-owned businesses.
The documents, which were prepared for court actions five years ago against several members of the Sharif family, alleged that money was laundered through “fictitious bank accounts” and, using family business interests, was siphoned into offshore accounts.
The allegations against Mr Sharif, who has been Prime Minister for the past 18 months since taking over from Benizir Bhutto, who also faces corruption allegations, have resurfaced after the appearance in the West of a former senior Pakistan police officer, who is in hiding in London.
Rehman Malik, the former second-in-command of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency – the Pakistani equivalent of the FBI in the United States – has produced an unofficial 200-page report on the agency’s investigations into Sharif businesses.
The investigation into Mr Sharif and his family was originally commissioned in 1993 by an interim government, after Mr Sharif’s dismissal as prime minister, which asked the agency to investigate 13 separate allegations of corruption and money laundering through overseas bank accounts.
Mr Malik, 46, was suspended from his post, charged with corruption and imprisoned without trial for a year.
The criminal charges against members of the Sharif family were dismissed in the Pakistan High Court after Nawaz Sharif returned to power 18 months ago.
The Sharif family is understood to control four luxury apartments in Park Lane, London, worth about pounds 3m. His son, currently studying at King’s College London, is living in one of the properties.
The Independent has been told that bank accounts were set up in the names of three members of the Qazi family who were close friends of one of Mr Sharif’s political allies – now a senior government figure.
The family claims that these accounts were set up – without their knowledge – with the assistance of this senior politician who had lived with them at their home while he was studied accountancy in Britain.
They claimed that the accounts were opened using copies of their passports, which they had given him to obtain Pakistani ID cards on their behalf. They said almost pounds 5m was then deposited.
They became aware of the accounts only when they received demands from various banks demanding repayments on loans totalling millions of pounds. They insist they have done nothing wrong.
Kashif Qazi, 29, one of four brothers, said last night: “We feel stupid. We feel totally raped by this man. We trusted him for 30 years. We have to clear our names. We have lost our reputation in the community.”
Despite repeated requests from The Independent, London lawyers for Mr Sharif failed to give any response to the corruption allegations against the Prime Minister.
By Andrew Buncombe