Swiss bank reveals
hidden wealth of Pakistanis
including Gen Akhtar

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Ex-ISI chief Gen Akhtar among 1,400 Pak citizens leaked to over 18,000 accounts. He “helped funnel billions of dollars in cash and other aid from the US and other countries to Afghan mujahedeen to support their fight against the Soviet Union”; claims NY Times

ISLAMABAD: A massive leak from one of the world’s biggest private financial institutions, Credit Suisse, has allegedly exposed the hidden wealth of major banks clients, including hundreds of Pakistani, international and local media reported.

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a network of journalists from around the world, said despite two decades of pledges by Credit Suisse to crack down on illegitimate funds, data leaked from the bank revealed it catered to dozens of criminals, dictators, intelligence officials, sanctioned parties and political actors with outsized wealth.

“Accounts identified by journalists as potentially problematic held over $8 billion in assets,” OCCRP said in statement on its website, adding “compliance experts who reviewed journalists’ findings said many of these customers should not have been allowed to bank at Credit Suisse at all.”

Gen Abdul Rehman

Among the people listed as holding amounts worth millions of dollars in Credit Suisse accounts was the head of the Pakistani intelligence agency, General Akhtar Abdur Rahman Khan, who “helped funnel billions of dollars in cash and other aid from the United States and other countries to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to support their fight against the Soviet Union,” the New York Times reported.

“In 1985, the same year President Ronald Reagan called for more oversight of the aid going into Afghanistan, an account was opened in the name of three of General Khan’s sons. (The general never faced charges of stealing aid money.) Years later, the account would grow to hold $3.7 million, the leaked records show,” the Times said.

Two of the general’s sons, Akbar and Haroon Khan, did not respond to the Times’ requests for comment for the reporting project. In a text message, a third son, Ghazi Khan, called information about the accounts “not correct,” adding, “The content is conjectural.”

In response, Credit Suisse said it was unable to comment on specific clients but “strongly rejects the allegations and inferences about the bank’s purported business practices”, which it said were “based on partial, selective information taken out of context, resulting in tendentious interpretations of the bank’s business conduct”.

The latest leak follows the Panama Papers in 2016, the Paradise Papers in 2017 and the Pandora Papers last year. They all shed light on the secretive workings of banks, law firms and offshore financial-services providers that allow wealthy people and institutions — including those accused of crimes — to move huge sums of money, largely outside the purview of tax collectors or law enforcement.

A file picture shows Gen Abdul Rehman welcoming to a Russian delegation on its delegation to Pakistan.

In a tweet on Monday, Pakistan’s Information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said corruption and money laundering were the “most important problem” for countries like Pakistan.

“The story of Panama, Pandora and now Swiss accounts – first steal money then send it out of the country,” the minister said. “Corruption and money laundering is the most important problem of countries like Pakistan.”

Gen Abdul Rehman, former chief of ISI and one of Gen Ziaul Haq’s closest aides and the man largely credited with establishing the mujahideen network to counter Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, is one of thousands of figures from around the world who have been exposed in a massive leak of secret banking data from a leading Swiss bank.

Dubbed the ‘Suisse secrets’, this massive trove was provided to Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, by a whistle-blower and claims to have exposed the secret wealth of clients notorious for drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption.

According to the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) — a network of journalists from around the world that sifted through the data — accounts identified as potentially problematic held over $8 billion in assets.

The revelations indicate failures of due diligence by the bank in violation of commitments made to authorities to disown shady clients. The data covers accounts that were open from the 1940s until well into the 2010s but not the bank’s current operations.

According to the New York Times, senior intelligence officials and their offspring from several countries that cooperated with the US also had money stashed at Credit Suisse.

Credit Suisse

“As the head of the Pakistani intelligence agency, General Akhtar Abdur Rahman Khan helped funnel billions of dollars in cash and other aid from the US and other countries to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to support their fight against the Soviet Union,” the NYT report says.

According to the newspaper, an account was opened in the name of three of General Akhtar’s sons in 1985, even though the general never faced charges of stealing aid money. Years later, the paper said, “the account would grow to hold $3.7 million, the leaked records show.”

An OCCRP report was more specific: it claimed that the Saudi Arabian and US funding for mujahideen fighters battling Russia’s presence in Afghanistan would go to the CIA’s Swiss bank account. “The end recipient in the process was Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence group (ISI), [at the time] led by Akhtar,” the report said.

The report states that “by the mid-1980s, Akhtar was adept at getting CIA cash into the hands of Afghan jihadists. It was around this time that Credit Suisse accounts were opened in the names of his three sons.”

OCCRP’s report stated that one of the two Akhtar family accounts at Credit Suisse — held jointly by three of Akhtar’s sons — was opened on July 1, 1985. That same year, US President Ronald Reagan would raise concerns about where the money intended for the mujahideen was going. By 2003, this account was worth at least five million Swiss francs ($3.7 million at the time). A second account, opened in January 1986 in Akbar’s name alone, was worth more than 9 million Swiss francs by November 2010 ($9.2 million at the time).”

However, one of Gen Khan’s sons told the project’s representative this information was “not correct” and “conjectural”. The leak follows the so-called Panama Papers in 2016, the Paradise Papers in 2017 and the Pandora Papers last year.

The list of those named in the leaks includes King Abdullah II of Jordan and the two sons of the former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Venezuelan officials ensnared in a long-running corruption scandal.

The data also features a Hong Kong stock trader once sent to jail on bribery charges, a tycoon who ordered the murder of his Lebanese lover, a Filipino human trafficker and dishonest politicians from Egypt to Ukraine.