ISLAMABAD: The authorities probing into the illegal foreign accounts and properties of thousands of Pakistanis disclosed on Tuesday that the volume of hidden assets stashed by Pakistani nationals in different tax havens abroad stood at $350 billion (Rs43 trillion).
Interestingly, the authorities also revealed, for the first time, that only accounts, properties worth Rs1,003 billion (US$8.1 billion) were declared by over 5,300 entities, individuals under the amnesty scheme 2018 in the past three months.
“By the close of Amnesty Scheme 2018 on July 31st, 2018, declarations from 5,363 entities (individuals/companies) had disclosed foreign assets worth Rs1,003 billion (US$8.1 billion), with major share of declared assets located in the UAE.
"The properties, account holders in other tax-haven countries benefited only marginally from this scheme,” revealed the confidential detailsrevealed the confidential details submitted to the Supreme Court. The declared amount of US$8.1 billion is around 2.3% of overall illegally parked amount,accounts worth US$350 by thousands of Pakistanis who allegedly violated the national laws by establishing their assets abroad.
“The total volume of Dubai properties is over Rs4, 240 billion with annual investment and growth of Rs220 billion where Pakistani property agents, investors are counting them as over 5,000 individuals, entities,” suggested the details Geo News exclusively collected from the Federal Investigation Agency, State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue, Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Finance Division and other financial institutions.
The shocking details also revealed that the British government has listed Pakistan among top three money laundering source countries after Nigeria and Russia. The institutions have also cited reference of the British National Crime Agency 2018 Report. About the top tax heaven, the institutions have also claimed that Pakistanis stashed US$100 billion in the United Kingdom and United States of America with additional millions of dollars parked in the real estate sectors. They have quoted findings of Shabbar Zaidi of the AF Ferguson, Pakistan in this report. An estimated, over US$200 billion was stashed by Pakistanis in Switzerland, revealed the report, quoting statement of Micheline Calmy-Rey/Swiss Foreign Minister in 2014.
It was also revealed that millions of dollars were also stashed by hundreds of Pakistanis in Hong Kong, British Virgin Island, Bahamas Channel Island Seychelles and other tax havens for corporate vehicles involved in money laundering. About the reasons for poor control over money laundering and difficulties in investigation, the institutions have told the apex court that weak legislative instruments remain a stumbling block to take action against these Pakistanis who violate national laws while stashing billions of rupees abroad illegally.
The FIA says the Foreign Assets Declaration Regulation, 1972 is a non-declaration and not defined as a predicate offence and the authority is not authorized to investigate.
Drawing the attention of the top court the FIA cited the Foreign Exchange Regulation ACT, 1947, Income Tax Ordinance 2001, Section 111-(4) that protects the sources of unexplained income from foreign remittance as well as the Pakistan Economic Reforms ACT 1992, Sections 4 and 5 that protects sources of unexplained income from foreign remittance. About the international laws creating hurdle in the investigations, the institutions informed the court that the United Nations’ Convention against Corruption 2004 did not authorize the FIA to take action against the under question property holders.
Similar is the case with the United Nations’ Convention against Trans-National Organized Crime 2000 (FIA not an Authorized Agency ) and OECDs Multi-lateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance on tax matters, 2011, including Automatic Exchange limited by ITO and PERA.
It was also informed that all institutions are facing multiple challenges for execution of Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) request and recovery of stolen assets of Pakistani citizens placed in the foreign jurisdictions. The main challenges included: non–provision of autonomy in operations and financing, lack of any legally binding international instrument, lack of legally binding bilateral/multilateral treaties between states, consumption of excessive time for technical assistance by the foreign states for drafting of requests for MLA in accordance with their domestic legal framework, non-uniformity of international cooperation laws in foreign jurisdictions particularly in dual criminality cases and number of channels involved in foreign jurisdictions before the requests of MLA reaches its desired agency, legal office for further evaluation and technical guidance for any eventuality.
The special committee probing illegal foreign accounts, properties of Pakistanis held over seven meetings with representation from Ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Interior, FBR, NAB, FIA, IB and SECP. They all have discussed the initiatives taken to both forestall the unchecked outflow of foreign exchange as well as to trace and bring back undeclared and ill-gotten assets held abroad by Pakistani citizens.
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Judge Zeba Chaudhry was, however, not present in the court as she was on leave.