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May 1, 2016

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Govt directs FBR, SBP, SECP to probe Panama Papers

Govt directs FBR, SBP, SECP to probe Panama Papers

ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the government has directed three major institutions, including the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), to probe the Panama Leaks under their respective laws and jurisdictions and provide all kind of assistance to the Supreme Court’s Inquiry Commission once it is constituted and notified.

Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar has directed the FBR, SBP and SECP to initiate a probe into the Panama Papers with the directives to complete this exercise on a priority basis.

It is not yet known whether the government had allowed NAB to initiate its probe into the Panama Leaks but the Finance and Revenue Division issued official directives in this regard.

According to three separate official letters written to the FBR, SBP and SECP by the Finance Division, copies of which are available with The News, with reference to the discussion between Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar and the FBR chairman on the subject held on April 21, 2016, the finance minister directed the FBR chairman to verify whether all those persons having resident status as defined under the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, whose interests in offshore companies had been made public in the Panama Leaks, had fully declared the said interests in their annual tax returns available with the FBR. It was also directed that in case any of the aforementioned persons was not a filer, proceedings in accordance with the law may be initiated immediately.

The official communication sent out to the FBR further states that the government has already written a letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for constituting an inquiry commission to probe the Panama Leak’s case. Through the aforementioned letter, the government has also authorised the inquiry commission to conduct an investigation and if required seek assistance from relevant government authorities, which automatically includes the FBR.

The finance minister has desired that that the FBR should complete the verification exercise on a priority basis. It has also been desired that full support and cooperation should be extended to the inquiry commission once it is constituted and notified.

However, the sources said that by mentioning specifically resident Pakistanis, it has excluded the name of the PM’s son who is not residing in Pakistan over the last 180 days so he will be excluded from the FBR’s jurisdiction to probe him. But the PM’s daughter will have to face investigation under the allegations of the Panama Papers.

The official communication sent to the SBP stated that the finance minister directed that the SBP might verify details of remittances sent abroad from Pakistan by resident Pakistanis whose interests in offshore companies had been made public by the Panama Leaks for acquiring the said interests. He had further desired to determine in respect of each such person if he/she had violated foreign exchange laws or any prudential regulations of the SBP and if so it must proceed against such persons under the relevant law immediately.

In this letter, it was also mentioned by the Finance Division that the government had written a letter to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court for constituting an inquiry commission so the SBP desired to provide full support and cooperation to the inquiry commission once it was constituted and notified.

A separate letter written to the SECP stated that the finance minister directed that the SECP to determine in respect of all those companies registered with the SECP and their directors whose interests in offshore companies had been made public by the Panama Leaks recently, whether they had while acquiring the said interests, violated the Companies Ordinance or any rules/regulations of the SECP and if so it must proceed against such persons under the relevant law immediately.

The finance minister therefore directed that the SECP should complete its exercise on a priority basis and he also asked them to provide full support and cooperation to the inquiry commission after its constitution.

It is yet to be seen how effective a probe will be done by the three major institutions of the country in this highly important probe under which 200 influentials in the political arena and business tycoons will face a tough inquiry from relevant authorities in the weeks and months ahead.

 

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