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Sunday, September 27, 1998 Published at 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan premier denies corruption allegation

Nawaz Sharif: Accused of having a 'secret fortune'

A Pakistani Government spokesman has denied allegations that the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, holds massive undeclared foreign currency assets abroad.

The BBC's Owen Bennet-Jones: "The opposition says that... it will release hundreds of pages of documents"
A Sunday London newspaper, the Observer, claimed that a five-year long investigation into Nawaz Sharif had revealed that he not only has massive hard currency assets abroad, but also that he has failed to declare some of them in the manner required by Pakistani law.

Evidence to the president

The opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) says it has documentation detailing the movement of millions of dollars by Mr Sharif around the world.

The opposition says police started investigating Mr Sharif's assets before he came to power. But, they say, when he started his current term as prime minister the official investigations were effectively stopped.

They allege that Mr Sharif wilfully and fraudulently hid the worth of his private business affairs, and failed to pay back huge bank loans.

But they say they have evidence documenting their allegations. They say that all the relevant documents are being sent to the Pakistani President.

'More than $60m siphoned away'

The Observer says the investigation was led by Rehman Malik, Pakistan's second highest-ranking policeman.

[ image: Allegations mirror those made against the Bhutto family]
Allegations mirror those made against the Bhutto family
According to Mr Malik's investigation, as reported by the London newspaper, Mr Sharif and members of his family have siphoned away from Pakistan country more than $60m.

The Observer says there are fears the allegations against Mr Sharif may add to the political instability in Pakistan.

The newspaper had reported earlier this month that the Pakistani chief of staff, General Karamat, "is thought to be on the brink of declaring a martial law".

Reminder of Bhutto allegations

The BBC Islamabad Correspondent says these accusations against the prime minister are not dissimilar to those being faced by the PPP leader, Benazir Bhutto.

Both previously have been dismissed from the post of prime minister amid allegations of corruption.

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