Pakistan’s Supreme Court hears PM’s Panama Papers reply

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer told the Supreme Court that Sharif does not own any shell companies

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Supporters of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Isaf party wave party flags while taking part in a rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. Thousands of supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan, gathered in the capital to celebrate a top court's ruling, which asked the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to submit a written response to allegations that members of his family were holding offshore bank accounts.

Anjum Naveed/AP

The Prime Minister of Pakistan defended himself before the nation’s highest court today as part of an ongoing and highly politicized response to the Panama Papers in the world’s sixth most populated country.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer told the Supreme Court that Sharif does not own any shell companies or property through offshore holdings.

Sharif did not address the offshore links of his children. The Supreme Court reportedly gave Sharif’s children, some of whom appear in Panama Papers, a “last chance” to submit their own statements to the court by Monday.

The Supreme Court also appointed a one-person commission to investigate the Panama Papers case and decided to set its own terms of reference for the probe, after political wrangling stalled the process in the country’s parliament. According to news reports, the commission will be led by a sitting Supreme Court judge and will have the full powers of the court at its disposal to investigate the scandal that has dogged the Sharif family since April.

Sharif, who was reportedly “upbeat” before the hearing, told a meeting of his cabinet that he was glad the issue was now to be decided by the courts.

Days before the hearing, Imran Khan, a former cricketer turned opposition party leader, called off a planned protest and organized instead a “thanksgiving” rally on Wednesday to celebrate the court’s decision to take over the Panama Papers commission. Thousands of Khan’s supporters reveled in the streets of Islamabad.

Pakistani commentators and media gave differing accounts of the week’s events, with some declaring the cancellation of the protest a victory for Sharif’s government after days of clashes, arrests and roadblocks in the country’s capital.

Pakistan’s government and opposition parties have been locked in dispute about the response to the Panama Papers since April. The two sides had failed to agree on the terms of reference for a judicial commission proposed by the government two days after the Panama Papers were released.

Elsewhere, the United Kingdom’s tax office disclosed recently that it had identified 40 wealthy Britons from the Panama Papers data. The tax office’s fraud investigation service and high net worth unit will assess the individuals and consider civil and criminal investigations if necessary, according to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

In Germany, the Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, announced new legislation – reportedly dubbed the “Panama law” within government—that requires Germans to disclose their business dealings with offshore companies.

In Armenia, the Special Investigative Service confirmed the ongoing investigation of Mihran Poghosyan, the former Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer, who resigned following revelations of an offshore company.

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