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February 10, 2018

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Pakistanis’ Rs900 bn properties in Dubai: NA committee decides to refer issue to NAB

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly's Standing Committee on Finance on Friday unanimously decided to refer the case of over $8 billion (approx Rs900 billion) investment made by Pakistanis in the Dubai real estate to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for further probe.

The NA Standing Committee, which met under the chairmanship of Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh here at the Parliament House on Friday, took up report of the sub-committee of the panel in order to look into this matter in detail and come up with recommendations to nab those who sent out money abroad without fulfilling requirements of Federal Board of Revenue and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

On a query of the NA Panel, senior journalist from Geo TVAshraf Malkham testified before the committee that he possessed the list of Pakistanis who owned properties in Dubai and the UAE. He said that initially he obtained a list of 33,737 individuals who purchased properties in Dubai and found out that 3,363 investors belonged to Pakistan. After scrutinising the whole list, he said the total number of Pakistanis owning property in Dubai increased to 5,000. He also told the committee that he had obtained this list from one of the FBR officials. When the committee members insisted on disclosing the name of the FBR official, Mr Malkham refused to do so.

Earlier, the subcommittee came to the conclusion that no other state institution possessed the capability to get the information on a fast-track basis, so NAB should adopt the same procedures it used to get information in case of former premier Nawaz Sharif’s assets named in the Panama case.

The subcommittee was headed by PML-N’s Shezra Mansab with the mandate to look into how the outflow of $8 billion had actually occurred; whether the money can be brought back and how future overseas investments by individuals can be stopped. During the Friday’s proceedings, some revelations were made about the suspicious role played by the FBR in the Dubai real estate investigation case.

Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf MNA Asad Umer and senior journalist Ashraf Malkham claimed that the FBR was in possession of a list of thousands of Pakistanis since 2015 who invested in Dubai. But during the meetings of the subcommittee, both the FBR and FIA denied that they knew about the Pakistanis who had invested abroad.

During the committee’s proceedings, the FBR continued stating that it did not have any information about the people who invested abroad, said Asad Umar. “According to my information, the report about 3,000 Pakistanis who invested in Dubai is in possession of FBR Chairman Tariq Pasha and former finance minister Ishaq Dar,” said Umar. The senior journalist claimed that he obtained a list from the FBR sources that carried the names of more than 5,000 Pakistanis who owned properties in Dubai.

During the subcommittee’s proceedings, the FIA director informed the committee that the agency had shared a list of 100 people who owned properties in Dubai with the FBR. Neither did the FBR nor did the FIA tell about the existence of the list carrying names of thousands of Pakistanis. The FBR’s Member Inland Revenue Policy Dr Muhammad Iqbal, claimed before the standing committee that he did not have knowledge of the existence of any such list. But Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal said that the federal government could take action only in case the information was authentic and obtained through legal channels.

Asad Umer challenged this contention and said the former finance minister Ishaq Dar had talked about $200 billion stashed by Pakistanis in Switzerland though he did not get this information from official channels.

Dr Muhammad Iqbal said that the FBR had shared the list of 100 Pakistanis with the Dubai authorities and it got its first response last week. The Dubai authorities have so far only confirmed that about 55 Pakistanis have bought properties in Dubai and they also shared copies of 35 passports, said Dr Iqbal.

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