ISLAMABAD : The Supreme Court was informed on Monday by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that Pakistanis own properties and assets worth US$150 billion in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during the hearing of a suo motu case pertaining to foreign properties.
During the hearing, Amicus Shabbar Zaidi apprised the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan on the information received by the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) pertaining to 225 properties belonging to Pakistani nationals in the United Kingdom (UK).
The apex court also sought a list of individuals who had failed to disclose foreign properties in wealth statements submitted to the FBR and instructed the bureau to ensure the names were submitted in a sealed envelope, the court also warned of strict action against any individual who leaked the information.
Noting that most of the amount was “looted”, Justice Bandial inquired why the authorities had not taken stern action against the individuals. “These individuals should be penalised for hiding the money,” he said while addressing Chairman FBR Mohammad Jahanzeib Khan.
Justice Bandial also expressed dissatisfaction over the disclosure of properties through the Tax Amnesty Scheme 2018. Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan said the Imran Khan-led government was pursuing the matter and had formed a task force to retrieve money stashed in foreign countries.
Khan said he was scheduled to brief the premier on the matter soon. “The government has taken ownership of the issue and will work under SC supervision.” The bench adjourned the hearing until the outcome of AGP’s meeting with PM Imran. The next hearing is scheduled for September 5.
Meanwhile, FIA submitted an executive summary to the SC-constituted standing committee tasked to prepare terms of reference (ToRs) and assist the government to recover money smuggled out of the country and stashed in foreign accounts.
In its report, FIA also recommended expanding the scope of the investigation to countries other than the UAE and UK. “British government listed Pakistan among top three money laundering source countries after Nigeria and Russia in its National Crime Agency Report 2018,” it noted. It requested the standing committee to include information revealed after Panama, Paradise and Bahama leaks pertaining to properties owned by Pakistani nationals.
The agency said it had taken cognizance of 2,750 undisclosed properties belonging to Pakistani nationals in the UAE. “If each property is valued at a conservation estimate of Rs40 million – the value of UAE assets under inquiry with the FIA comes to Rs110 billion which is only 2.5 per cent of Rs4240 billion – the value of officially known assets of Pakistanis in UAE.”
FIA’s anti-corruption wing instituted 54 criminal inquiries against 662 undeclared properties owned by Pakistani citizens on first source report. “However they were stalled due to non-provision of record by the real estate regulatory agency of Dubai Land Development and subsequently by the Tax Amnesty Scheme 2018 regulated by Foreign Assets (Declaration and Repatriation) Ordinance 2018. The inquiries have been re-initiated.”
Another 621 criminal inquiries have been launched on second source reports and 1,467 were initiated on the basis of cyber intelligence reports.