ISLAMABAD: The whereabouts of nearly 200 Pakistanis named in Panama Papers and Bahamas Papers remain a secret for the country’s taxman.
The Panama and Bahamas Papers are huge collections of classified documents leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in April and September, respectively.
These Papers revealed names of around 600 Pakistanis, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children, who owned offshore companies in international tax havens. The Supreme Court is already hearing a number of petitions primarily seeking Sharif’s disqualification in the wake of these revelations.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has already sent notices to those individuals whose exact identities and addresses are available. However, the FBR’s Intelligence and Investigation (In-Land) Directorate is still struggling to ascertain exact identities of some 182 of these Pakistanis.
In this regard, the FBR directorate has sought help of the country’s top database authority, the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), for the purpose of their identification.
Last month, the FBR wrote a letter to NADRA requesting it to find out and furnish the computerised national identity cards (CNICs), passport details and ‘verisys’ of these individuals. The letter is available with The Express Tribune.
‘Verisys’ relates to the basic details about a citizen’s identity including his name, CNICs number etc.
Interestingly, the list of 182 individuals sent to NADRA for a search also contains names of some well-known persons including a sitting judge of the Lahore High Court Justice Farrukh Irfan Khan and his daughter Maria Farrukh Irfan Khan.
It also includes name of Zain Iftikhar Sukhera – a family friend of former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani – who was also named in Hajj corruption case; and Rukhsana Qayyum, a family member of former attorney general Malik Muhammad Qayyum. And yet the FBR is clueless about these ‘famous’ Pakistanis.
Names of prominent politicians from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and members of Sharif family are not included in the list as they are already in correspondence with the FBR over the issue.
The FBR spokesperson Dr Muhammad Iqbal confirmed the development, saying that due to the limited scope of the leaked information, which does not contain the CNIC and passport numbers or dates of birth of the individuals, the tax authority has to seek NADRA’s help.
“These 182 individuals are those whose exact identity details are not available with the FBR,” Dr Iqbal said. These details have been sought under section 176 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001.
He said details would help in carrying forward the pending investigations into offshore entities and assets and their owners and ensure timely conclusion of the ongoing probe.
“In many cases the directors of the same offshore entity appeared to be family members and NADRA could trace the individuals through their family trees,” he added. These 182 individuals own a total of 108 offshore firms.
At the beginning of last month, the FBR told the Supreme Court that out of 336 individuals, only 133 responded to the notices served on them to seek details of their investments in offshore companies. These notices were served in the first week of September 2016.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2016.