Through offshore cos, Pakistanis among top five buyers of UK properties

Bureau report
Monday, Oct 04, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis are ranked fifth among those buying properties in London through offshore companies, reveals an analysis of the Pandora Papers documents. Many individuals formed shell companies for this purpose in order to avoid taxes or for other reasons best known to them.

British citizens, not surprisingly, are at the first position on the list followed by Nigerians, Indians and Russians. Over a quarter of the firms are owned by Britons, according to an analysis conducted by the ICIJ partners from the UK, The Guardian, BBC and Finance Uncovered. The secret files found 681 previously anonymous beneficial owners of 1,542 UK properties purchased through 716 offshore firms. The value of these properties is estimated to be more than $5.5 billion.

More than two-thirds of the properties are owned in London, with Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea being the most popular boroughs. Most of the properties are owned by firms incorporated in the British Virgin Islands with a handful in the Seychelles and Panama. The analysis is focused on properties that people of different nationalities own and the number of companies they hold for buying real estate.

UK citizens top the list, whether the record is analyzed in terms of the number of companies owned for property purchases or the number of properties held through them. When it comes to Pakistanis, they stand at the fifth position in terms of companies they used for property purchases and are ranked sixth in terms of properties they purchased.

Senior Punjab Minister Abdul Aleem Khan, Arif Masood Naqvi, the founder of the fallen equity firm, the family of Lt. Gen. (retd) Shafaatullah Shah, the daughter of Lt. Gen. (retd) Habibullah Khattak, Tariq Sayeed Saigol, Sikandar Mustafa Khan and Amer Ishaq Khan are among the prominent Pakistanis who emerged in the Pandora Papers in connection with the companies used for buying properties in the UK.

Aleem Khan, together with his wife, owns Hexam Investment Overseas Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands for buying properties in London. Three properties are shown in the company’s ownership record. Arif Masood Naqvi, another financier of Imran Khan presently in a UK jail awaiting extradition to the US, holds six properties through two offshore companies: Blondell Assets Limited and Velolia Star Limited. A company, Talah Limited, belonging to Lt-Gen. (retd) Shafaatullah Shah owns one property in London.

The daughter of Lt-Gen (retd) Habibulah Khattak, Shahnaz, purchased two properties. One of them is in the name of Shady Tree Properties Limited and another in the name of Southwest Holdings Limited. In the Pandora Papers document, she said she inherited her fortune from her father. One woman, Saeeda Akhtar, has the highest number of properties, owned through Hilltop Supplies Limited. As many as 16 properties were found in the company’s name. Asif Hafeez, a drug smuggler, held three properties through Sarwani S.A.

Murtaza Ali Shah of The News reported in April that Hafeez lost these properties to the UK after his arrest on charges of importing heroin. He owned a luxury apartment in London worth GBP2.25 million. In addition, he had two farmhouses in Windsor with a combined value of around GBP6 million. —Umar Cheema