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February 17, 2018

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Foreign accounts, properties: No one can be tried by obtaining info under OECD

ISLAMABAD: Under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Treaty (OECD), any member country cannot prosecute its citizens on the basis of information received regarding properties and bank accounts abroad, The News has learnt.

Sources in the FBR confided in this correspondent that being a member of OECD, all member countries are bound by law not to make public names of persons received under the OECD treaty. Furthermore, this information cannot be presented as evidence in any court of law. Similarly, on the basis of this information, any person/organisation cannot be prosecuted. Moreover, in case the information shared by the OECD arrangement is made public, or used as evidence in the court of law or criminal proceedings are initiated, such country will be violating the treaty and will cease to be a member of OECD. Also, in future, no information will be provided to the said country. Information received under the OECD treaty can only be used to tax persons/organisations having properties and bank accounts abroad, The News learnt.

Sources in the FBR said the Supreme Court has also been apprised about this fact and the FBR has not provided any information obtained under the OECD to SC. Consequently, the SC has accepted the FBR’s point of view, The News learnt.

Therefore, law enforcers are prohibited from taking action against any Pakistani in possession of properties or bank accounts abroad. Most of the information available with the Pakistani authorities is photocopies, which are not acceptable in the court of law.

A delegation to judge the implementation of OECD Treaty by Islamabad is shortly visiting Pakistan and will meet the FBR and other concerned to review the situation. A nominee of Switzerland will also be part of the delegation visiting Pakistan. Switzerland has a strict stance on prohibition of use of OECD information for any purpose other than taxing, sources said.

Keeping in view the sensitivity of this issue, the FBR has taken strict measures to ensure confidentiality of the issue and has introduced relevant measures. The FBR is now issuing special cards for every floor separately. Visitors must also inform which office or officer they are visiting. A senior official said, “We are bound to honour our treaty with the OECD member countries and will not be using this information for any purpose other than to tax persons having properties and bank accounts abroad.” About the visiting delegation of OECD, he said, “We are already ensuring maximum measures to keep confidentiality in this regard, which is very important to us.”

A senior official dealing with white-collar crimes said the only option left with Pakistan is to prosecute such a person under anti-money laundering law. “But after the disclosure of FBR regarding OECD Treaty, which bars the use of this information, other than for tax purpose, we realise action cannot be taken against the owners of properties abroad and account holders outside Pakistan.”

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