Former Pakistan prime minister late Benazir Bhutto, her aide Abdul Rehman Malik and nephew Hassan Ali Jaffery Bhutto set up a company, Petroline International Inc, in the British Virgin Islands in 2001. The trio were later accused of bribing the Iraqi government to bag contracts under the United Nation’s oil-for-food programme for a similarly named company Petrofine FZC, set up in Sharjah in 2000.
A committee set up by the United Nations under former head of US federal reserves Paul Volker found in 2005 that Petrofine FZC paid US$ 2 million commission to the regime of Saddam Hussein to win oil contracts worth US$115-145 million. In 2006, Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau claimed that Petroline FZC was owned by Bhutto, Malik and Ali Jaffery. Bhutto and her Pakistan Peoples Party denied the charges.
International law firm Mossack Fonseca’s (MF) records reviewed by The Indian Express show that the trio —Bhutto, Malik and Jaffery — set up a similarly named company in the British Virgin Islands but the political sensitivity of the association made MF eventually back out, saying that “the partners of the firm have decided not to accept Mrs Bhutto as a client”.
Soon after the UN oil-for-food scam unravelled, a defiant Benazir was assassinated while electioneering in 2007. Her aide Malik is now a senator and a senior member in PPP’s Central Executive Committee. Earlier, an additional director in the Federal Investigation Agency, he served Benazir in Pakistan and in exile.
Approached by London law firm Richard Rooney and Co, MF-BVI incorporated Petroline International Inc in the British Virgin Islands on September 7 2001 as a standard shelf company with an authorised capital of US$ 50,000 (US$1 per share).
The names of Bhutto, Malik and Jaffery as directors and shareholders did not surface until September 28, 2001 when MF-London asked MF-BVI to issue 17,000 shares to Benazir Bhutto and 1,65,000 each to Abdul Rehman Feroz Malik and Syed Hassan Ali Jaffery. Incidentally, this share structure — 34-33-33 percent among Bhutto, Malik and Jaffery — was identical to the alleged shareholding of Petroline FZC.
The Indian Express tried to contact Malik at his Pakistan number but he was unavailable. Hassan Bhutto was not available for comment.