Property Leaks: Pakistanis Own a Staggering $11bn Worth of Property in Dubai

In a recent revelation, it has been discovered that Pakistanis own properties in Dubai worth an astounding $11 billion. This disclosure is part of a global collaborative investigative journalism project named ‘Dubai Unlocked’, which has unveiled the property ownership of influential figures worldwide in Dubai.

The data, primarily spanning the years 2020 to 2022, offers an extensive insight into hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai, along with details regarding their ownership or utilization. The project is based on data obtained by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. It was then shared with Norwegian financial outlet E24 and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which coordinated a six-month investigative project with reporters from 74 media outlets in 58 countries.

The list includes political figures, globally sanctioned individuals, alleged money launderers, and criminals. Among them, Pakistanis own $11 billion worth of properties in Dubai, making them the second-largest group of non-residents purchasing properties in the city. According to the “Property Leaks”, 17,000 Pakistanis have bought 23,000 properties in Dubai.

Indian citizens lead among non-residents purchasing properties in Dubai, with 29,700 Indians owning 35,000 properties in the city. Additionally, there are 19,500 British citizens who own 22,000 properties in Dubai. The total value of properties purchased by British citizens in Dubai amounts to $10 billion. At least 8,500 Saudi citizens have bought 16,000 properties in Dubai, totaling over $8 billion.

Among the Pakistanis listed in the Property Leaks are President Asif Ali Zardari’s three children, Hussain Nawaz Sharif, Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi’s wife, Sharjeel Memon and family members, Senator Faisal Vawda, Farah Gogi, Sher Afzal Marwat, four MNAs and half a dozen MPAs from the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies. The Pakistani list also features the late Gen Pervez Musharraf, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and more than a dozen retired generals as well as a police chief, an ambassador and a scientist – all of whom owned properties either directly or through their spouses and children.

In his social media post, Sher Afzal Marwat said he owns an apartment in Dubai, which he declared with all regulatory authorities in Pakistan six years ago. In 2014, President Asif Ali Zardari had received foreign property as a gift. By the time he declared it in 2018, he had gifted it to someone. In 2014, a business tycoon co-accused with Zardari in the fake accounts case, Abdul Ghani Majid, declared in his wealth statement that he had granted a gift of Rs329m but neither mentioned its type nor the recipient. The JIT, however, recovered a memo about the purchase in March 2014 of a penthouse in Dubai. The Property Leaks data has now unveiled that Ghani had gifted this property to Zardari who gifted it to his daughter.

Chief Financial Officer of Omni Group Aslam Masood along with his wife is also shown as a listed owner of several properties in the data. This revelation has shed light on the vast holdings of the Pakistani elite in Dubai, raising questions about the sources of these funds and the implications for Pakistan’s economy.

The ‘Dubai Unlocked’ project has indeed unlocked a Pandora’s box, revealing the extent of Pakistani property ownership in Dubai. This revelation is not just about the staggering amount of wealth amassed by Pakistanis in Dubai’s real estate market, but also about the transparency and accountability of these transactions. It underscores the need for stringent regulations and oversight to ensure that such investments are legal, ethical, and beneficial to Pakistan’s economy.

This investigative report has certainly stirred up a storm, and it remains to be seen how the Pakistani government and the individuals involved will respond to these revelations. As the dust settles, one thing is clear – the ‘Dubai Unlocked’ project has opened up a new chapter in the discourse on wealth, power, and accountability in Pakistan.

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