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September 4, 2018

Properties abroad: SC told Pakistanis own $150 bn assets in UAE

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September 4, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan was informed on Monday that Pakistani nationals own up to $150 billion in assets and money in bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

During the hearing, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa informed the court that London authorities had provided information about properties of 225 individuals to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).The apex court sought list of 300 individuals who owned properties in foreign countries and had transferred the money abroad through illegal means such as Hundi/Hawala.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umer Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsen resumed hearing into a suo motu case regarding the foreign bank accounts held by Pakistani citizens.

During the course of hearing, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar expressed dissatisfaction with the authority’s measures for bringing back the money, transferred by the Pakistani nationals abroad through illegal means.

“We do not see any progress so far for bringing back the looted money”, the CJP remarked while addressing the officials of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The court directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to provide its Registrar Office in a sealed envelope, list of those individuals who had been served notices until Sept 5 with a warning if these names were disclosed, the FBR and Registrar of the apex court would be responsible.

Appearing on notice, SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa disclosed that the authorities in United Kingdom (UK) had shared with them information pertaining to properties established by the Pakistani individuals there.

“The UK authorities have identified some 225 properties established there by the Pakistani individuals and shared this details with Federal Board of Revenue”, Bajwa submitted. He informed the court that amicus curie Shabbar Zaidi had issued notices to 300 individuals for owning properties in different countries including UAE, France, US etc adding that the individuals transferred most of the money through hawala.

The SBP governor, however, submitted that they would formally make a request to Dubai authorities to initiate legal proceedings against those who had not declared their foreign properties under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2017.

"This money does not belong to those individuals but Pakistan”, the Chief justice remarked. Justice Umer Ata Bandial asked SBP governor as to whether they had taken any strong action against those individuals.

“We are targeting those who are earning money in Pakistan and then transferring it abroad through illegal means. Justice Bandial observed that the committee constituted by the apex court was required to recommend to the government for forfeiting of their properties but they had collected nothing in Amnesty Scheme because they were offered only 2 percent tax on declaring foreign assets.

On the other hand, Justice Bandial said that the same scheme introduced by Indonesia remained successful by offering high charging rate of 17pc tax. Justice Bandial while addressing the SBP governor said that their Terms of Reference (ToRs) were mild.

It is pertinent to mention here that Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had constituted a committee comprising FBR chairman, SBP governor and Secretary Ministry of Finance to prepare guidelines and evolve effective strategy to encourage the people to take out their money from foreign banks, bringing it back to Pakistan and to participate in development and prosperity of the country.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan while appearing before the court informed that in pursuance of the court’s directions, the government issued a notification on August 27, forming a Task Force comprising officials from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), and the Ministry of Finance.

He contended that government was determined to pass a legislation to bring back money from abroad and it wanted to monitor the matters of public interest. Anwar Mansoor pleaded that Prime minister Imran Khan would be briefed this evening on the matter pertaining to Hundi, Hawalla etc.

“I would say that in view of the interest of the court, the government is serious to resolve this issue,” AG submitted. “It is not in view of the interest of the court but in the interest of the people of this country”, Chief Justice replied but Anwar Mansoor said that the interests of the people are reflected through this court. Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing till September 5.

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