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Illegal money stashed abroad: Bajwa, Pasha, Finance Secretary to prepare guidelines

Illegal money stashed abroad: Bajwa, Pasha, Finance Secretary to prepare guidelines

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has constituted a committee comprising the Federal Board of Revenue chairman, the State Bank of Pakistan governor and the Ministry of Finance secretary to prepare guidelines to bring back money illegally stashed in foreign countries by Pakistanis.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing the suo motu case about the bank accounts and properties held by the Pakistani citizens in foreign countries.

The committee, headed by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa, comprises Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Tariq Mahmood Pasha and Federal Finance Secretary Arif Ahmad Khan.

The chief justice made it clear that if required, the court could ask the government to legislate on the matter of sharing information and bringing the money back from abroad.

The committee was formed after the FBR informed the court that there were no legal guidelines or frameworks available to retrieve the money stored in the banks abroad.

The chief justice noted that there were also citizens who used legal means to transfer their money abroad. However a majority of the people smuggled their money to the foreign countries.

The SBP governor informed the court that treaties were being signed to share the information and bring back the money of Pakistani citizens from abroad. He said a treaty had been signed with the Swiss government to share information of Pakistani citizens who opened bank accounts there and the Swiss authorities would share the information in December 2018. He said the treaty had to be validated by the parliament.

He said the government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) had also started sharing the information about Pakistanis who owned properties and bank accounts there. The chief justice noted that it was being said that if Pakistani citizens brought back their money from abroad, the loans of Pakistan could be paid back.

He noted that the departments concerned could use multiple ways to bring the money back without creating any panic.

He said that it also had to be seen that if Pakistanis brought back their money, what benefits or incentives they would be given by the government. He said the money being kept or transferred in foreign bank accounts illegally should be brought back first.

During the hearing, the court was also informed by the FBR counsel that out of the 444 people whose names had surfaced in the Panama Leaks, 78 people had yet to be traced. He said 363 people had been issued notices by the FBR.

A senior official of FBR told the court that a list of 185 Pakistani citizens whose names surfaced in Panama Leaks was given to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for getting information about them. However, it had failed to get information about anyone.

He also informed the court that Rs 6.62 billion had been recovered from two individuals. Notices were being issued to 10 individuals who had not disclosed the exact worth of their properties located in various countries. He said advertisements would be placed in the media against 73 people whose addresses were still untraceable. For this purpose, permission of the court is required. The chief justice then suggested that the advertisements could be placed on the website of the FBR to save money.

The court directed that all these people should be asked about how they had purchased these properties. “They should also give reasons about what necessitated them to purchase these properties abroad,” the court said.

During the hearing, the court also included in the case an application of former information minister Muhammad Ali Durrani. Later, the court adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period.

On February 1, 2018, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had taken suo motu notice of the matter and directed the FBR, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Finance Ministry to submit details of wealth deposited in foreign bank accounts or being stored abroad by Pakistani citizens.

The CJP had also sought details of foreign assets held by Pakistani citizens, while noting that reports were circulating that many Pakistanis in positions of power held accounts in foreign banks and had been looting the country’s money and transferring it abroad through illegal channels.

He had noted that the money looted and deposited in overseas bank accounts was a national asset and had to be brought back to Pakistan.