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January 2, 2019

Pakistanis’ offshore assets: 2,154 properties, 1,211 owners

Top Story

January 2, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Tuesday that Aleema Khan, sister of Prime Minister Imran Khan, had to pay Rs29.4 million to the national exchequer as tax and fine till January 13.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, heard a suo motu case regarding foreign bank accounts and properties held by the Pakistani citizens.

To a court query, the Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Muhammad Jahanzeb Khan informed that Aleema Khan had sought time till January 13 to pay Rs29.4 million as tax and fine.

On the previous hearing, the court had directed Imran Khan’s sister to ensure payment of Rs29.4 million to the public exchequer as tax and fine. The court had warned that Aleema’s properties would be attached if she failed to pay the fine and tax imposed by the FBR. The apex court had, however, allowed her to avail the remedy of appeal against the FBR decision about tax determination.

On Monday, the FBR chairman informed the court that they had recovered Rs167 million from Pakistani citizens holding undisclosed foreign bank accounts and assets abroad. Justice Saqib Nisar recalled that earlier the court was given an impression that Rs3,000 billion would be recovered. The chief justice asked about the progress so far made by the FBR in the matter.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen inquired about the progress made with reference to some 20 cases, identified as model cases. The FBR chairman disclosed that Rs167 million had been recovered so far, while notices for the recovery of another Rs147 million had been despatched.

He further submitted that of the total recovered amount, Rs100m came from Agha Afzal, while Imtiaz Afzal paid Rs10 million, adding that further investigation is in progress.

Earlier, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted another report, saying that it had identified another 96 individuals who had properties in the United Arab Emirates.

As per the report, some 1,211 Pakistanis have properties in the UAE and out of them 774 individuals have submitted their affidavits, while 363 have been issued notices. Of them, 365 individuals belong to Punjab, 693 to Sindh, 125 to Islamabad, seven to Balochistan and 21 individuals belong to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The report further stated that 60 people could not be identified, 57 are not cooperating with the investigation being in progress, while one is absconding.

Meanwhile, the court sought a comprehensive report by January 13 and adjourned further hearing until January 14.

It is pertinent to mention that on October 26, the FIA in pursuance of the court’s order had provided a list wherein it was informed that Aleema Khan owns one benami property in Dubai while Rizwana Amin, spouse of late PPP leader Amin Fahim, is the owner of four properties in Dubai. However, she has declined ownership of these properties.

The report had revealed that several political personalities as well as governments officials having properties in Dubai either in their names or on their family members’ names, however, the agency submitted that it could not be assumed on this stage that these properties were established through illegal means of income.

The court was informed that Aleema Khan was also an owner of a benami property in Dubai at which she was served a notice.

Similarly, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan in pursuance of the court’s direction had presented a list of 20 Pakistani individuals, having some 120 properties in the UAE.

Meanwhile, the apex court declared null and void all agreements between the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and the Eden Housing Society, and ordered the former to develop the 11,000 plots sold by the latter within five years.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, issued the orders while hearing the case in the federal capital.

"Some 11,716 people have been affected by the Eden Garden Housing Scheme, and 60,000 people from Lahore have been looted. Meanwhile, those behind this scheme have fled after pocketing Rs13 billion. People were defrauded in the DHA's name," the chief justice said.

The DHA counsel argued that his client had limited involvement in the project.

The chief justice asked: "Is it the army's job to develop housing societies?"

"Your name attracts controversy every time you have gone into housing schemes," Justice Saqib Nisar said.

The chief justice said the court might issue an order for the DHA to acquire land and allot plots to the affected people within three months. He said payment should also be made for the land Eden Housing has given.

Meanwhile, the chief justice regretted that he was being held responsible for not putting his house in order even though the judiciary does not have the authority to legislate.

During the hearing of a case regarding the minorities rights, the chief justice said the judiciary had moulded its procedure according to the current era. “We can only interpret laws, not create them," he said.

He said that the recommendations of the law commission had been forwarded to the Law Ministry but are still pending. "If those recommendations had been approved, dispensation of justice would have become easier," the chief justice claimed. He said that he had requested the prime minister to amend the laws regarding judicial process when they had met during a symposium held last month to address the country's growing population.

Earlier, the Supreme Court also sought details from the government about the development and reconstruction plan in the 2005 earthquake-hit areas of the country, as it heard a suo motu notice of alleged embezzlement in grants and donations meant for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the earthquake survivors.

Justice Saqib Nisar, while hearing the case, remarked that he would also join the victims in protests if they were not compensated.

“No hospitals or schools were built, nor the new Balakot. The survivors are still living in tents and camps in the worst conditions,” he lamented.

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