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July 12, 2019

Benches not notified to hear Benami cases


July 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government has not yet notified benches for hearing Benami cases under Benami Adjudicating Authority, however, the FBR has so far sent out 50 notices for holding Benami assets/income all over the country.

The FBR has established Special Benami Zones in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad in order to comply with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements. The notification of Benami benches will enable members of Adjudicating Authority to hear cases of three different zones belonging to jurisdiction in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Top official sources in the FBR feared that all-out efforts needed to dispel this impression that the Benami law was being used for the purpose of political victimisation. “The Benami law is good one and it should not be used as tool for political victimisation at any cost,” said top official sources.

The Benami law became operational mainly because of work supervised by former finance minister Asad Umar who took keen interest in issuing rules despite all kind of resistance when, in January 2019, FBR’s Member Inland Revenue (Operation) Seema Shakil raised flag of rampant usage of Benami assets/accounts for hiding due taxes and asked the then finance minister to make this law operational. Then former FBR chairman Jehanzeb Khan and Member IR Policy Dr Hamid Ateeq Sarwar played catalyst role for issuance of Benami rules in last fiscal year.

When rules for Benami law were in place, the FBR put these cases under the jurisdiction of Broadening to Tax Base (BTB). Some cases were identified on the basis of envisaged criteria of possessing 2400cc vehicles, 4 kanal house and bank account with deposit of more than Rs30 million to Rs40 million would be sent notices.

The official sources said that the FBR could not arrest everyone on account of Benami accounts or assets and there was a need to set precedent of a few cases for making example for others. “We should create deterrence at the highest level but these cases should not be used for political victimization,” added the sources.

In the first batch, it is unfortunate that most of the Benami cases were forwarded to Benami zones related to political figures mainly because till at that time the amnesty scheme was going on so it was not allowed to send cases of other Benami holders. Now the FBR has started selecting cases on professional grounds and it is decided that the board would send around 50 cases to field formation on monthly basis.

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