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October 6, 2018

Details of 10,000 Dubai, UK properties received

Top Story

October 6, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar announced Friday that details of over 10,000 properties in Dubai and England, owned by Pakistanis, had been received, saying information on half of these was available previously, but no action was taken.

He told a news conference along with Minister for Information Chaudhry Fawad Hussain that the newly constituted Asset Recovery Unit (ARU), consisting of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials, would investigate thousands of properties abroad, held by Pakistanis. Notices have been issued to 300 individuals who own properties mainly in UAE, he said.

He said that two more flats owned by Ishaq Dar were found in London.

Shahzad Akbar explained that the list had been divided into two parts, first for politically exposed people and the second for other Pakistani citizens. He maintained that the ARU would submit a fortnightly progress report to the Supreme Court.

He pointed out that the government was in contact with the Swiss government regarding the ratification of a treaty for exchange of information, adding the treaty would be ratified and acted upon soon.

The ratification of the Swiss treaty for the exchange of information, which would give Pakistan information on bank accounts, he noted, was supposed to be completed by 2013-14 but had been intentionally delayed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who impeded the ratification for five years.

He explained that the solution their department had found for the accountability was to approach the German government, which had in 2013 announced that it had acquired information on Swiss accounts until then, and would make it publicly available to all governments, particularly those of developing countries.

However, despite this development, he noted, the government in Pakistan had never asked the German government for provision of this information. “You all know whose details would have come out if they had asked for the information,” he emphasised.

The ARU, he said, had officially asked the German government for the information and once it was received, they would be able to access information for accounts created. Shahzad Akbar pointed out India had previously taken information on Swiss accounts from the German government, which Pakistan quoted as an example in their request to the German government for which they were awaiting a response from the other side.

He was hopeful that keeping the government’s vision in mind, and the cooperation that they were receiving, Islamabad would receive the same cooperation from the German government so that proceedings could be initiated on the basis of information regarding Swiss bank accounts.

Shahzad Akbar maintained that Pakistan had also invited other countries such as the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, China and the United States with whom it had bilateral treaties to revisit these and add similar clauses for the exchange of information. He said that this was to ensure that banking and asset details could be provided to Pakistani institutions.

He said that the previous government’s shortcomings were evident in the arrangement with the US, which allowed Washington to access Pakistanis’ details but did not grant similar access to Islamabad, as there was no such clause in the agreement. “These are the shortcomings that we are trying to eliminate,” he said.

Shahzad Akbar noted that with regard to the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, other than the Supreme Court proceedings, no proper investigation had been initiated into the allegations in the leaks, barring the Panama Papers. He explained that proceedings had been initiated against those named in the Panama Papers.

He said, “If your name was on the Panama Papers list, it does not mean that you were involved in corruption, however, if the name appears of someone who held a public office, an inquiry will be conducted against him.”

Shahzad Akbar pointed out that the Supreme Court was alone in its fight against the corrupt but now it had the government’s support. “We will send a list of those 300 people to the Supreme Court,” he said.

He noted, “We have details of three housing societies in Dubai. Money is sent abroad through launches and the Prime Minister Imran Khan has formed a task force to draft laws against money laundering, hundi and hawala”.

He said that already millions were being recovered from the accounts of ice-cream vendors and stall owners, as fake accounts were created for the purpose of money laundering and bank accounts were created in the names of drivers and domestic staff as well.

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