ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Saturday that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had recovered around $22 million from foreign countries.
“NAB has so far generated 433 Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) requests while information has been received in respect of 152 requests,” says the report submitted by a high-powered committee constituted by the Supreme Court.
“The bureau initiated nine inquiries in respect of the Panama Leaks and filed three references in the accountability courts. NAB has also recovered around $22 million from foreign jurisdictions,” the report adds.
The committee is headed by State Bank Governor and includes finance secretary and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman as its members.
It is tasked with tracing and bringing back foreign assets held abroad by Pakistani nationals.
Now, the committee has recommended the top court that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) maybe designated as the focal authority for the purpose of tracing and retrieving undisclosed foreign assets.
“Appropriate law enforcement agencies must be designated as focal authorities for the purpose of conventions and laws relevant to tracing and retrieving undisclosed foreign assets.
“For example, the FIA may be designated as focal authority for the United Nations Convention against Trans National Organised Crime (UNTOC) and the OECD convention on the Combating Bribery of Foreign Public officials in International Business Transactions Anti-Bribery Convention 1999,” suggests the report.
The committee further recommends that an appropriate domestic law on MLAs be enacted at the earliest, adding that autonomy be granted to LEAs to initiate and respond to their requests from their counterparts in their countries.
Likewise, MLA treaties should be signed with key countries where undisclosed foreign assets are suspected.
It is also observed that there was a strong mutual feeling among all relevant agencies and organisations that effective coordination maybe helpful even under the existing legal regime, especially in perusing cases where information about the assets held abroad is available, especially the information obtained by the FIA regarding real estate owned by Pakistanis in Dubai.
About the key issues in tracing and retrieving offshore assets, the panel pointed out a number of challenges like lack of robust inter-agency coordination, legally binding MLA treaties with key jurisdiction such as the US, the UK, Canada, the UAE, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.
The report further states that the FBR has Double Taxation Avoidance treaties with 70 countries while it has pursued 336 individuals in the Panama Leaks and 38 in the Paradise Leak.
However, its efforts to obtain information and take action were constrained by lack of adequate information about taxpayers and the absence of treaties with tax haven jurisdiction.
Similarly, the FIA initiated inquiries against 662 properties where information was available while 51 fresh inquiries were initiated against more than 600 individuals.
The recent amendments in the relevant laws are expected to assist the authorities concerned in stemming the outflow of foreign exchange.
The committee has sought 90 days to submit its report on tracing and retrieving assets held abroad.