ISLAMBAD: In a major development, a parliamentary committee on Friday unanimously decided to send the case of illegal investments of over $8 billion by Pakistanis in the Dubai realty sector to the National Accountability Bureau for investigation.
Headed by PML-N MNA Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance took the decision on the recommendations of its subcommittee that had been constituted to look into the issue.
Members from all political parties unanimously decided to hand the case over to the anti-graft body, which is the only institution that can deal with Dubai authorities under a legal framework.
The subcommittee came to the conclusion that no other state institution has the capability to get the information on a fast-track basis, and that NAB would have to adopt the same procedures it used to get information about former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s assets named in the Panama Papers.
PML-N’s Shezra Mansab headed the subcommittee panel and the major input was given by Asad Umar of the PTI.
The sub-committee had been set up to look into the modus operandi of sending abroad $8 billion; whether that money can be brought back and how future overseas investments by individuals can be stopped.
The volume of the illegal investment is expected to jump further, as the list balloons further.
All the investment made in the Dubai’s real estate are illegal, as the State Bank of Pakistan has already informed the committee that the central bank never gave the permission to any individual to invest in the real estate sector anywhere in the world.
The money laundering and terrorism financing remain a serious issue, as the wealth generated through illegal means or by evading taxes is either invested in the real estate in Pakistan or channeled to other destinations like Dubai.
During Friday’s proceedings, fresh revelations were also made about the dubious role of the Federal Board of Revenue in the Dubai real estate investigation case.
PTI’s Asad Umer and a senior journalist from a private news channel claimed that the FBR was in possession of a list of thousands of Pakistanis since 2015 who have investment stakes in Dubai.
But during the meetings of the subcommittee, both the FBR and the Federal Investigation Agency denied that they knew about the Pakistanis who invested abroad.
“During our committee’s proceedings, the FBR kept lying and gave misstatement that it did not have any information about the people who invested abroad,” said Umar.
“According to my information, the report about 3,000 Pakistanis, who invested in Dubai, was in the possession of FBR Chairman Tariq Pasha and former finance minister Ishaq Dar,” said Umar.
A senior journalist from a private news channel claimed that he obtained a list from sources in the FBR that carried the names of more than 5,000 Pakistanis who owned properties in Dubai.
During the subcommittee’s proceedings, the FIA director had informed the committee that the agency has shared a list of 100 people who own properties in Dubai with the FBR.
Neither the FBR nor the FIA told about the existence of the list carrying the names of thousands of Pakistanis.
The FBR (Member) Inland Revenue Policy Dr Mohammad Iqbal claimed before the standing committee that he did not have knowledge of the existence of any such list.
But Minister of State for Finance Rana Mohammad Afzal said that the federal government could take action only where the information was authentic and obtained through legal channels.
Umer, challenging the contention, said former finance minister Ishaq Dar had talked about $200 billion wealth of Pakistanis stashed in Switzerland. “Despite that, he did not get this information from official channels.”
Dr Mohammad Iqbal said that the FBR had shared the list of 100 Pakistanis with the Dubai authorities and it got the first response just last week.
“The Dubai authorities have so far confirmed that about 55 Pakistanis have bought properties in Dubai and they also shared the copies of 35 passports,” said Dr Iqbal.
He said the information has been sent to the FBR field formations for further action.