Credit Suisse Leaks have revealed that one of Pakistan’s wealthiest businessmen, Mian Mohammad Mansha, appears to have had a shared bank account with a phantom company that helped finance the sale of a five-star hotel in London, United Kingdom.
While Mansha has always maintained that he had no involvement in the purchase of a five-star London hotel that is being investigated for alleged forgery, tax fraud, and money laundering, bank documents were collected by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and its Suisse Secrets partners that linked him to the hotel purchase.
To recall, Pakistani tax authorities began investigating Mansha and other members of his family in 2015 after discovering anomalies in the purchase of the historic St. James Hotel & Club for roughly $50 million in November 2010.
After learning that the Mansha family had siphoned funds out of the nation without declaring them legally, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) probed the matter. However, the investigation quickly came to a halt since the tax machinery was unable to find much about the offshore entities that allegedly lent the money.
Officials in the British Virgin Islands refused to offer any information regarding Avendale Enterprises Limited, a company established there that had lent the “Manshas” $22 million. Officials in Guernsey were more cooperative, but when asked about Easy Investments Limited, their response raised red flags. They claimed that there was no record of the corporation being registered on the island at any time. There was no sign of it anyplace else in the world.
The FBR said in court papers filed in 2020 that the lack of a registration for Easy Investments in Guernsey made the multimillion-dollar loan suspicious and prompted “serious questions regarding the veracity of the claims of members of the Mansha family.”
According to data from Suisse Secrets, Mansha may have had a cordial relationship with Easy Investments. In 2005, a firm controlled by Mansha and his wife, Naz, opened a Credit Suisse bank account with Easy Investments Limited as a co-holder.
The account, which was closed in 2013, had a peak balance of over 18.5 million Swiss francs (approximately $20 million) in 2012, more than a year after the hotel deal was finalized.
However, Suisse Secrets data does not include the jurisdictions where the firms are incorporated, and the report reckons that it is impossible to verify that the company listed on the bank account is the same as the offshore that gave the Mansha family money. The OCCRP report details that a handful of Easy Investments Limited firms registered in various jurisdictions across the world at the time of the deal, but their owners could not be identified, and they did not appear to be connected to the deal.
However, the new information concerning Easy Investments could alter the trajectory of these investigations. A tax official who worked on the case told the OCCRP that if Mansha covertly controlled the company and lied to investigators about it, he might face substantial financial penalties and even perjury charges.
Mian Mansha recently resigned as Chairman of the Nishat Group, which was created in 1951 by his father and close relatives. He was the first Pakistani to join Forbes’ list of billionaires in 2010.
Mansha’s businesses grew in the 1990s when he purchased holdings in two cement companies and was part of the group that bought Muslim Commercial Bank, thanks to a privatization effort led by ex-Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. It is pertinent to mention that the bank’s acquisition continues to be a source of controversy. Although Mansha’s bid was not the highest, he was reportedly allowed to match the top bid to win the auction. A 2002 NAB investigation in this regard remains open to this day.