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August 17, 2018
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Committee looks into Pakistanis’ offshore properties on Monday

National

August 17, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The committee constituted by the Supreme Court to delve into the ownership of overseas properties by Pakistanis would hold first meeting on Monday, The News learnt.

The committee, headed by the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, has been tasked with the evaluation of individual cases for legal action. Sources said the committee would determine which of four categories such overseas properties would fall into.

The first category would include properties purchased by overseas Pakistanis from the proceeds of income earned outside the country. The second category would comprise overseas properties paid for by Pakistan-resident citizens through the legal transfer of tax-paid income. In either case, no investigation would be mounted or charges leveled because no financial crime was involved.

The third category would include overseas properties purchased by Pakistanis who did not pay taxes on the money sent abroad to pay for them. These assets would be investigated for evidence of money laundering and, if substantiated, would be prosecuted in the courts.

The fourth and most controversial category would comprise foreign property-owning Pakistanis without a declared source of income or record of paying taxes, or record of making a legal international fund transfer. The sources said this final category owns more than 70 percent Pakistani-held properties in the Middle East, Europe and the US. It is believed to include business tycoons, politicians and bureaucrats. Many have sought to hide their wrongdoing by registering the properties in the names of relatives or domestic servants. All such cases would be thoroughly investigated and proactively prosecuted, the sources told The News. However, the committee may struggle to obtain authentic evidence against the beneficial owners of illegally purchased overseas properties. This is already proving to be an uphill task for the Federal Board of Revenue, the Federal Investigation Agency and the National Accountability Bureau, the sources said.

In their meeting on Monday, the leaders of all these government agencies would put their heads together to develop an effective method of unearthing overseas properties acquired by Pakistanis with the proceeds of illicit income, the sources said.

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