HE is, according to praise cited by his publicity machine, "the last of the true remaining polymaths".

Feted by presidents and princesses, professors and premiers, Azeem Ibrahim has rubbed shoulders – often in front of cameras – with the likes of George W Bush and Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Alan Greenspan, and Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown.

After all, the 36-year-old is, according to his own website, a "self-made success in a number of diverse fields" who has been "described by his peers as a brilliant young scholar and a financial wizard".

Now Ibrahim – declared to be one of Scotland's richest men just five years ago – has been thrust into arguably the world's most sensitive political stage.

The Scot, son of a Glasgow grocer, is advising Imran Khan, the former cricketer turned politician who is seen in the West as the best hope to steer troubled Pakistan away from extremism and poverty.

This prompts questions about Ibrahim. Who is he?

He routinely cites his inclusion in The Sunday Times Rich List 2007 and 2008, which state he had made more than £50 million.

If so, how? And just how close is he to America's political interests?

Certainly, his new job at Khan's side puts Ibrahim on the frontline of the United States' war on terror.

Yet today – as Khan visits his many supporters in Glasgow's Pakistani community – the Sunday Herald can reveal that America's State Department is distancing itself from Ibrahim.

Two years ago Ibrahim revealed that he was now the US's point man for economic reform in Pakistan.

"This is unprecedented and very flattering," he said. "The US State Department wants me to be its point of contact in a country of 170 million people."

The remark raised eyebrows in diplomatic circles then. And it is raising alarm bells now, because America does not want Pakistanis to think Khan is getting his strategic advice from a Washington insider. Especially if he isn't.

"The State Department meets regularly with members of the Pakistani diaspora community," said a spokeswoman, explaining contacts between officials and the Scot.

But she added: "Mr Ibrahim is not an employee of the State Department and is not an official or unofficial adviser."

It is understood that this statement was "run up the flagpole" to the office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ibrahim, whose wife is American, spends a lot of time in Chicago, Mrs Clinton's home town.

The website of his strategic advice consultancy, Ibrahim Associates, lists a stint as chairman of Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign Finance Committee among his previous work.

He has had substantial contacts with the State Department. Indeed, he dealt with a State Department campaign to promote US-style business culture in developing nations.

An official working on the campaign reportedly told him it lacked a "local interlocutor" in Pakistan. It was this that prompted him to say he was America's point man.

The entrepreneur last night stressed he had never claimed to have been employed by the State Department.

Ibrahim's status as a multimillionaire and philanthropist has helped open doors in politics and academia.

He first surfaced in the UK media in 2007 when he was valued by the Sunday Times Rich List at around £52 million.

By the following year that figure had risen to £58m. The source of the wealth? Finance.

The Sunday Herald has sought to establish basic background facts on Ibrahim's commercial history.

We have been unable to find a single UK firm run by the entrepreneur – other than his unregistered charity Ibrahim Foundation – that has ever filed full accounts at Companies House.

Ibrahim, in a statement last night, said: "Ibrahim Foundation Ltd has submitted all accounts on time.

"Other companies were not required to do as they were also registered offshore with all funds and management function being outside the UK."

He added: "This is the common set-up for over 90% of finance companies operating in the UK."

So what are these offshore companies? One of the businesses he has referred to most is the European Commerce and Mercantile Bank, or ECM Bank, said to have been founded in 2004.

This bank used Swedish and United Arab Emirates addresses that were "virtual" offices – essentially postboxes and telephone answering services, including the prestigious Emirates Tower in Dubai.

Ibrahim has declined to say where his bank or any of his other overseas financial businesses were registered and regulated.

Dr Ibrahim said in a statement that he was not obliged to provide this newspaper with such information.

He did, however, add that ECM Bank operated several "information" offices around the world but that its operations were centralised in India, not Dubai.

MUCH of the rest of his empire, like ECM Bank, fell under the umbrella of ECM Holdings. Ibrahim had a chartered, certified accountant, Aadil Butt, write to us to provide assurances that six firms – ECM Holdings, ECM Bank, ECM Clearing House, ECM Asset Management, ECM Investment Management and ECM Global Macro Hedge Fund – were all "compliant with the law".

Butt added that the companies "were structured in such a way to legally mitigate tax liabilities".

The ECM empire did have a British wing, however.

This short-lived company called ECM Investment Management Ltd was regulated by the UK's Financial Services Authority and headquartered on a floor of Canary Wharf's Canada Square, where virtual and serviced offices are available.

In April 2008, Ibrahim said that four or five individuals had committed £10m apiece to his hedge fund.

He also said he had turned down overtures from one Gulf royal family that had wanted to become a partner.

In January 2009, Ibrahim told The Scotsman newspaper he was selling his bank – which he said had been valued by independent auditors at $100m – to concentrate on his hedge fund.

This, he said, would be worth £1 billion within five to 10 years.

Three months later, in April 2009, Ibrahim applied to have ECM Investment Management Ltd struck off at Companies House.

Last night he declined to say who he had sold the bank to or for how much. Butt, however, said the bank had been in "good standing" before its sale.

Ibrahim has also ventured into the world of online maritime insurance. Essentially, for anybody wanting to insure a ship, he offered something like the service that the firms fronted by meerkats and moustached opera singers offer to car owners.

This company was Transpacific Insurance Corporation, which was licensed in the obscure Indian Ocean offshore tax haven of Anjouan.

The business gave an address in Gibraltar. In November 2006, Gibraltar's Financial Services Commission issued a public warning about this company, saying that its Anjouan insurance licence had been revoked.

Ibrahim has said that the public warning about Transpacific Insurance Corporation or "TP" was a "standard statement".

He added that it was simply "to confirm that the insurance licence did not permit TP to undertake business in Gibraltar as it only had an international licence".

He continued: "At no point did it say TP had done anything improper."

Butt said that he had fully investigated TP in 2009 and found the company to be "fully compliant", with "no issues of concern whatsoever".

Ibrahim is currently the sole shareholder of Ibrahim Associates. This business – which he describes as non-profit – has only ever filed dormant company accounts.

Despite a lavish website, which shows a large boardroom with leather executive chairs, the firm lists a west London address at another "virtual" office.

However, the Scot does not flaunt his wealth. He spends time in Glasgow, holding meetings in The Herald Cafe in the Mitchell Library, close to his modest roots in Anderston. In fact, his official address is now a flat in the area.

Now as much a brilliant scholar as financial wizard, Ibrahim has been involved in academic programmes at Yale and Harvard, and gives lectures at the University of Chicago.

Last year he received a PhD from the University of Cambridge, three years after newspapers had already reported the achievement.

His specialist topics are Pakistan, Imran Khan and ways to combat graft.

"Corruption in Pakistan is extremely widespread and the country's immense resources are being squandered," Ibrahim said in March.

"I believe Mr Khan can turn things around very quickly and it will be my job to create policies that can be put into place immediately."

Could Ibrahim's offshore know-how now save Pakistan's economy?

The businesses and philanthropy of azeem ibrahim

Azeem Ibrahim's UK companies

1. Globalex Technical Limited

History: Ibrahim became a director of Globalex in July 2000. The business said it was "trading in mobile phones".

Set up: April 2000.

Dissolved: February 2004.

Accounts: Non-trading accounts published in April 2001 showed the company had cash in hand of £2601.

2. Ionis Limited

History: Ibrahim sought to have Ionis struck off six months after it was registered. He remains director of a German firm called Ionis GmbH.

Set up: April 2004

Dissolved: March 2005

Accounts: None.

3. Transpacific Corporation Limited

History: Ibrahim sought to have company struck off two months after it was registered.

Set up: February 2006

Dissolved: September 2006

Accounts: None.

4. European Commerce and Mercantile Asset Management Ltd

History: Ibrahim sought to have the company struck off less than three months after it was registered.

Set up: July 2006

Dissolved: February 2007

Accounts: None.

5. ECM Investment Management Ltd

History: UK finance firm which managed hedge funds said by Ibrahim to outperform market by 40%.

Set up: September 2007

Dissolved: July 2009.

Accounts: None.

6. Aegean Restaurants Limited.

History: An Azeem Ibrahim who lives at one of Ibrahim's addresses (but is seven months younger than the Scot) owns half this company.

Set up: October 2009.

Accounts: Dormant company accounts.

7. Ibrahim Associates

History: A "not-for-profit" firm providing strategic consultancy.

Set up: November 2009

Accounts: Dormant company accounts.

Azeem Ibrahim's Philanthropy

"With wealth comes enormous responsibility," Ibrahim told the Sunday Herald in 2009, as we reported that he had already donated £3 million to good causes.

So what are his charitable interests?

First and foremost he is director and chairman of the Ibrahim Foundation. This is a private non-commercial grant-giving organisation rather than a registered charity. It made £58,000 of donations in 2010-11 on a turnover of just under £91,000.

It supports the Solas Foundation, an organisation praised by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic for trying "to provide innovative solutions to the problem of young Muslims' radicalisation in Scotland".

Previously, Ibrahim told this newspaper he spent a quarter of his working week on charity.

Last night he said: "I do not operate any of the charities on a day-to-day basis but simply set them up when I assess the need and then hand them over to others to operate."

Ibrahim also backs Unity Family Services, which has had no income for the last three years. Yesterday, he said the charity had helped 100 Scottish families in breakdown and had recently raised £15,000.

He was also chairman of Purifi, set up to provide clean water in disaster areas but removed from England's register of charities last year.

Ibrahim said Purifi was now run from Turkey by an "entrepreneur of international repute". There is no reference to this on Purifi's website.

The Charities Commission shows Ibrahim's Asia-Pacific Children's Fund, set up to run an orphange for 500 children in Bangladesh, has had just £300 in income over the last three years.

Last night he blamed a colleague's ill-health for late accounts and said the charity was now largely based in Bangladesh – and a new wing was being built at the orphanage.

His European Benevolence Fund, set up to, among other things, create a £1m endowment for an orphanage in Bosnia, last year raised £14,000.