PM seeks suggestions to recover wealth stashed abroad

Published: August 28, 2018
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The prime minister has declared retrieval of the hidden offshore assets as his topmost priority.

PHOTO: EXPRESS

The prime minister has declared retrieval of the hidden offshore assets as his topmost priority. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Amid legal and administrative hindrances, Prime Minister Imran Khan has given an ambitious deadline of two weeks to a task force set up to recover unlawfully acquired foreign assets by suggesting a way forward for expeditious retrieval of the ill-gotten wealth.

The task force on Monday held its first meeting where different government departments apprised the body about the current status of pending investigations of suspected money laundering and financial fraud cases, said the officials who attended the meeting.

Special Assistant to PM on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar chaired the meeting, which was attended by officials from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Finance Ministry, the State Bank of Pakistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Auditor General of Pakistan, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Recouping ill-gotten wealth a hard task

It was an introductory meeting where no major decision was made. The chairman directed all the departments to initiate the work for bringing back the untaxed and illegal assets. No date has been given for the next meeting.

The prime minister has declared retrieval of the hidden offshore assets as his topmost priority and promised to bring back the wealth stashed in overseas banks. The terms of reference (ToR) of the task force also suggest the urgency, as the PM has asked it to give recommendations within two weeks “for steps to be taken by the task force for expedient return of unlawfully acquired assets from abroad”.

The task force has also been assigned to review all cases of unlawfully acquired assets pending before the government departments and organisations. Its other terms are to review the existing mechanism, international agreements, coordination of government of Pakistan with sovereign governments and to work out modalities to fast track recovery of undeclared offshore assets.

The chairman of the task force asked the Ministry of Finance to share the earlier reports prepared by the committees setup by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to recover the hidden offshore assets.

The SECP has been directed to give the task force access to its beneficial ownership register, which carries details of the individuals and companies having stakes in foreign companies.

The officials said some of the committee members were of the view that the only legal way to get back the offshore assets was to use the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) framework.

However, Pakistan has not signed legally binding MLA treaties with key jurisdictions like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United Arab Emirate and Malaysia, according to findings of the SC-constituted committee. This report has been recently submitted to the apex court.

There was also lack of enabling domestic MLA law, which will become an obstacle in retrieval of assets, suggested the report. There is lack of robust interagency coordination, it added.

The sources said another challenge that Pakistan will face is that it will have to establish that these were bona fide cases of recovery of assets and these were not politically motivated cases. They said Pakistan will also have to first lodge criminal cases against such individuals in local courts.

PTI seeks UK, UAE help to recover looted money

Pakistan has already offered last opportunity to its citizens and offered them offshore and domestic tax amnesty schemes. About 5,300 Pakistanis availed the offshore scheme and declared over $8 billion assets. But the repatriation to Pakistan remained less than $70 million.

NAB apprised the task force that it sent over 450 MLA requests and received information in over 160 cases. It has also initiated close to one-dozen inquiries in Panama Papers case and filed three cases in the accountability court. The FIA said it initiated close to 725 inquires where information was available.

The FBR informed the task force that it traced close to 400 Pakistanis in Panama Papers and Paradise Papers leaks but no further progress was made due to legal and administrative bottlenecks.

 

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Reader Comments (9)

  • BrainBro
    Aug 28, 2018 - 12:07PM

    How about starting from Pakistan. Billions are stashed in local banks. These shenanigans have never worked.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Aug 28, 2018 - 12:53PM

    I hope those involved themselves don’t have money stashed abroad ….. because then the exercise will definitely fail.Recommend

  • Saad
    Aug 28, 2018 - 2:53PM

    I find it rather strange, but not the least bit surprising, that having based its election campaign on the promise of bringing the looted money back to the country, PTI is clueless as to how to go about it. They say that they’ve struggled for 22 years, I wonder why can’t they present any plans to to do the things they claimed they would when in power. For instance, was it 10 million jobs he had said they would create in 100 days?

    It’s the same as the roti, kapra, makan and the end to load shedding, I don’t see a difference. Looks like the 22 year struggle was just to come to power, like others before them.

    Alas, the only thing new in the Naya Pakistan, is the face (even that isn’t, if you know what I mean).

    So sad!Recommend

  • Z
    Aug 28, 2018 - 3:49PM

    Hold them hostage like King SalmanRecommend

  • Sajjad
    Aug 28, 2018 - 4:08PM

    Forge their signatures and withdraw all the money.Recommend

  • Engr.Amir Sultan Rana
    Aug 28, 2018 - 4:35PM

    One way is to make Pakistan financial hub of the world. Automatically it will transform complete situation of Pakistan.

    For those who have taken Pakistan money via corrupt practices should be aligned and investigated to have complete recovery.

    Best of Luck.Recommend

  • M khan
    Aug 28, 2018 - 6:26PM

    Saudi formula best Recommend

  • bronco
    Aug 29, 2018 - 2:47AM

    Patriotism and tax amnesty hasn’t worked. Maybe IK should work on the basics so that both Pakistanis and foreign investors find Pakistan worthy? Corruption, reign in spending, increase tax collection, and fix the terrible judicial system are significant hurdles. Recommend

  • MJ
    Aug 29, 2018 - 3:19AM

    Translation: PTI does not have a clue how to get that money back. If it was that easy that common people could come up with the process or procedure to do it, this question would’ve not been asked. I want the money back just as much as any patriotic Pakistani but it is not going to be that simple. Getting money back from offshore accounts and Swiss banks has been tried elsewhere in the world before but the success rate has been really grim. Recommend

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