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Ping! How Nawaz Sharif & Co were exposed!

By Bastian Obermayer, Frederik Obermaier
Last updated on: April 12, 2017 15:04 IST
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When Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier shone a light on the Pandora's Box that became famous as the Panama Papers, even they didn't know how it would shake up the murky world of finance, indeed the world itself.

Oberamayer and Obermaier went on to win 2017's Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for their excellent journalism. carried an excerpt from their book, The Panama Papers, on April 12, 2016.

We present that excerpt to you again, for your reading pleasure.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

IMAGE: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in the thick of the Panama Paper revelations.

We are fascinated by the way our data comes alive without us having to do anything at all. 'Ping' -- a new result. Often overnight, due to the time difference between us and the Americas.

The data is now being fished 24 hours a day; at any given moment, at least one of our colleagues is sitting at a laptop entering new names into the search mask in one time zone or other.

We come back from lunch and someone has discovered another head of state or government.

When our European colleagues are mining the data, we see the new results coming in live, hour by hour. A number of the findings are spectacular:

The president of the United Arab Emirates.

The former prime minister of Jordan.

The family of a former South American dictator.

The Palestinian deputy prime minister.

There is also a trail leading to Nawaz Sharif, the current prime minister of Pakistan.

Sharif had also been prime minister on two separate occasions in the 1990s. In a critical report, the World Bank names two companies in the British Virgin Islands that Sharif is said to have used for questionable business deals: Nescoll and Nielson.

Sharif is believed to have bought luxury homes through these companies, including in London. State funds transformed into a private villa in the blink of an eye.

We find both companies in the data. The documents reveal that the owner, at least until 2012, was Mariam Safdar, nee Sharif: Nawaz Sharif's daughter.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, with his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Juntao at the  parade in Beijing, September 3, 2015. Photograph: Wang Zhao/Reuters

IMAGE: Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, with his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Juntao at the parade in Beijing, September 3, 2015. Photograph: Wang Zhao/Reuters

'Ping' -- the next big name.

Deng Jiagui.

The name will not mean much to readers in the Western hemisphere, but Deng Jiagui is the brother-in-law of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Very close relatives.

According to the data, Deng Jiagui owned two offshore companies between 2009 and 2011: Wealth Ming International Ltd and Best Effect Enterprises Ltd, both based in the British Virgin Islands.

That is controversial because of all people, his brother-in-law, the Chinese president, announced a few years earlier that he would crack down on greed and corruption. Both in the lower ranks, the 'flies', and in the upper echelons, the 'tigers'.

Back in 2004 he called on China's politicians to 'rein in your spouses, children, relatives, friends and staff!'

Perhaps he should have had a word with his brother-in-law.

The case is also interesting because there have been so many revelations concerning Chinese politicians using relatives as beneficiaries when they have wanted to hide away the wealth they have accumulated.

We come across other princelings, as the close relatives of the powerful Chinese elite are called. They have often been the subject of negative headlines in recent years, involving stories about Ferraris, wild parties, arrogant behaviour, drunken accidents and rapes.

The most prominent case among them involves the daughter of former premier Li Peng, who is known as the 'Butcher of Beijing' because he was the one who sent in the tanks to crush the protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

According to the documents, Li Peng's daughter Li Xiaolin and her husband established the Cofic Investment Ltd company in the British Virgin Islands through a Geneva law firm in 1994.

The Chinese president's brother-in-law and the daughter of the former premier -- two more trails to current and former heads of state and government, two more names for our list in the 'war room'.


IMAGE: Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on as Sergei Chemezov and Ashok Baweja sign an agreement. Photograph: Ivan Sekretarev/Reuters


A post by our colleague from Le Monde. He has discovered a five-page list in the data that was compiled by and emailed to Mossack Fonseca staff members in 2010. A list that reveals the real owners of dozens of companies. A list full of Russian names.

But these are not just any old names.

The list includes a close relative of a very well-known Russian oligarch.

It includes the son of Sergey Chemezov, who runs the Russian defence Company Rostec and who knows Vladimir Putin from their KGB days in Dresden -- he has been on the US sanctions list since 2014.

And there is more to come: Two brothers, Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, who are among Vladimir Putin's closest associates, and are probably two of the Russian president's most important business partners. They too are on the sanctions list.

These names will keep us busy for weeks. During the Washington conference we established a special working group that would focus on Russia. This group includes journalists from the BBC, The Guardian, the Swiss SonntagsZeitung and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, whose team includes Russian colleagues, some of whom are still reporting from inside Russia.

We will be subjecting these sensational names to further scrutiny as part of this team.

It is clear that the Russia story is going to be huge.

Excerpted from The Panama Papers: Breaking The Story Of How The Rich And Powerful Hide Their Money by Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, Rs 499, with the permission of the publishers, Pan Macmillan India.

  • You can buy a copy of the book here.
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Bastian Obermayer, Frederik Obermaier