A mind-boggling figure of $4.9 billion sent the Pakistani media into a frenzy when it was alleged that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had laundered this amount to India to avoid detection. What added credibility to this earth-shattering allegation was the country’s anti-corruption watchdog National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordering an investigation based on a media report. The report had claimed that the World Bank’s migration and remittance book 2016 had carried this information.
The NAB’s press release further went on to add that “The foreign exchange reserves of India were increased by $4.9 billion by receiving such huge amount sent through money laundering, inflicting losses to Pakistan’s national kitty as per media report.”
But as the news spread like wildfire on May 8, the World Bank issued a press release denying any such mention of money laundering in its report.
“These media reports were incorrect. The World Bank’s Remittances and Migration Report is an effort by the World Bank to estimate migration and remittances numbers across the world. The report does not include any mention of money laundering nor does it name any individuals.”- The World Bank
The World Bank also referred to a statement by the State Bank of Pakistan that refuted the $4.9 bn remittances number on September 21,2016.
So, where did this news report originate from? Journalists from Pakistan have pointed out on Twitter that the NAB now claims that the incorrect information first came up in an Urdu newspaper Daily Ausaf.
NAB says that its (now thoroughly discredit and ridiculed) order to launch a probe against the Sharifs for alleged money laundering to India was based a column in Daily Ausaf — and the column was published in Feb 2018! pic.twitter.com/ooPbKQ4MTp
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) May 9, 2018
The NAB has come under heavy fire for ordering a probe without doing its own checks and relying on a single media report. According to Dawn, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi strongly criticised the NAB for launching the probe and asked the National Assembly to constitute a committee which would summon the NAB Chairman Justice Javed Iqbal and investigate the allegations.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan had disqualified Sharif last year, forcing him to resign from the country’s top post. This was following the release of the Panama papers in April 2016 that revealed three of his children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family’s wealth statement. Mr Sharif has dismissed the corruption charges as politically motivated.
The indictment by the country’s top court has put the most powerful political family and their future in a lot of trouble. If convicted, Sharif could face jail time.