Money Trail in Corruption - By :Prof. Dr. Munir M. Hasan

These days, the proceedings of the Panama case in the Honourable Supreme Court is in full swing. The basic question before the Bench is: how the sons of the Prime Minister got a big amount of money to purchase the premium properties in Central London in their early ages. The petitioners say that this property was purchased from the money which was sent by the Prime Minister from Pakistan illegally, while the lawyers of the Prime Minister are trying to prove that the money was not transferred from Pakistan, but it was obtained from the sale of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia, or was gifted by a Prince.

Leaving aside the contradictory statements of the accused and his lawyers, I am of the view that the scope of this charge on the Prime Minister is just a small part of the whole story. There are strong evidences that the sons of the Prime Minister and other family members are not only having properties on Park Lane in London, but they are also having many other properties and investments in other countries. All these properties can neither be purchased solely by the money laundering from Pakistan, which has been admitted by the Finance Minister, nor these can be purchased from the sale of a mill which allegedly could not even repay the amount of loan to the banks. In addition to the above-mentioned alleged money trail, this tremendous amount of money must also have come from other sources. There are evidences that a big chunk of this money has come from the kickbacks from the mega projects started by the Prime Minister in Pakistan, because getting kickbacks from the foreign contracting firms, depositing the same in foreign banks or in other investments schemes in the name of his sons, and purchasing foreign properties was the easiest and safest way of corruption. In this way no money trail from Pakistan, either legal or illegal, could be traced.

In one of my articles which I wrote last month, I pointed out that the contract of the first Motorway in Pakistan (M2) was awarded to M/s Daewoo Corporation of Korea in 1991 by the present Prime Minister in his first tenure as Prime Minister. This project was considered as the most expensive motorway in Asia. Taking into consideration the labour and other costs in Asia, in Europe and in USA, this project can be considered as the most expensive project in the whole world. Although the technical expertise was available in Pakistan, the awarding of this project to a foreign firm was to ensure safe means of getting kickback, depositing this money into the companies established by his sons for this purpose, and purchasing the properties in London. Recently, the BBC has revealed that the properties in London were purchased in early 1990s. There seems to be a strong link between the award of Motorway project in 1991 at exorbitant price and the purchase of Park Lane properties in early 1990s.

After getting unchecked and successful result, the Prime Minister became confident and in his later tenures, especially in his third tenure as Prime Minster, he has started many other mega projects neglecting his basic and constitutional duties and depriving of necessities to the common man.

In addition to this approach of corruption, the Prime Minister has also found another way to squeeze public money through his privatization policy by destroying Pakistanís elite enterprises. This policy also started in 1990 when some banks were privatized, and private companies were allowed to start power projects. In the latest phase of privatization policy, PIA and Pakistan Steel Mill, which were earlier running in profit, are included. To achieve his goals, he has been appointing corrupt persons as the heads of these prestigious public sector organizations so that these organizations should be ruined and run in heavy losses making an excuse to sell them at throwaway prices. As the actual costs, including the cost of huge piece of land associated with Pakistan Steel, and the potential of making these organizations profitable are high, the purchasers will be quite willing to pay handsome kickbacks on these purchases.

Another evidence of this type of corruption is the payment of some 480 billion rupees to the private sector immediately after taking over as Prime Minister in 2013, without any budget provision, without the approval of this huge expenditure from the parliament, and without any audit of the accounts.

The crime investigation agencies in Pakistan will never investigate these initiatives of the Prime Minster for obvious reasons. However, if the investigating journalists and some political parties are interested, they can find a link between the award of M2 motorway project and purchase of the London properties which will solve the Panama case more easily. Then links to other mega projects and presence of other properties can also be investigated. These investigations will make it easy to get the public money back to Pakistan.

Posted on Jan 23, 17 | 8:27 am