ISLAMABAD .: A committee on Saturday suggested setting up a Joint Task Force (JTF) comprising representatives of the FIA, NAB, FBR and other agencies to bring alleged ill-gotten money of Pakistani citizens stashed abroad back.
The chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) had formed the committee to prepare terms of reference (ToRs) that can help the government recover money smuggled out of the country and stored in foreign accounts.
Initially, the committee had three members, led by the SBP governor and included federal finance secretary and FBR chairman.
Later, it, with the court’s permission, co-opted other members such as the interior secretary, Deputy Chairman of NAB, the FIA DG, SECP chairman, representatives of the Intelligent Bureau (IB) and the Foreign Office.
On August 7, the court asked the committee to submit a report by September 3 for achieving the objectives of suo motu proceedings.
Complying with the court’s order, the committee held meetings on August 20 and August 30 and proposed the formation of a JTF, in addition to suggesting its terms of reference (ToRs) to the apex court.
On Saturday, the committee submitted its report, telling the Supreme Court that it would initially act on the information about the assets of Pakistani citizens in the UAE that had been obtained by the FIA.
It stated that the committee would identify assets of such individuals where sufficient information was available to conduct an inquiry.
“The committee will also examine the possibility of using information available with the FBR about the assets of Pakistani citizens in the UK obtained under the OECD multilateral convention.”
It also informed the top court that the committee would form a JTF comprising representatives of the FIA, FBR, NAB and other agencies or organisations or persons as “it may deem appropriate”.
According to the proposed ToRs, the JTF would summon persons identified by the committee for personal hearings.
Individuals refusing or evading to appear before the JTF would be reported to the committee, “which shall submit in the monthly reports the names of such persons before the SC for appropriate orders”.
Similarly, persons appearing before the JTF would be asked to confirm that they or their dependents or spouses owned the reported foreign assets or submit an affidavit that the assets did not belong to them.
“Where such an affidavit is submitted, the FIA or relevant agency will approach relevant authorities informing them that the owners of certain assets have on affidavit, denied their ownership and request them to initiate proceeding with respect to such assets under anti-money laundering legislation or provide prosecutable evidence to the law enforcement agency concerned to enable it to proceed against such persons under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act of 2017 or any relevant law.
“However, if a person accepts the ownership of foreign assets, he will be asked to provide the source of funds to acquire these assets and whether or not these were declared in their wealth assets.
“Likewise, if the persons justifies the source of fund, he (or she) is involved in tax evasion by concealing his assets, the JTF will ask the FBR to levy and recover due taxes from such persons.
“However, (if) a person failed to explain the source of funds … the task force will ask relevant agency (such as) FIA, NAB or ANF to (take action) against him in accordance with law. The relevant agency may confiscate the assets. The committee will also ask relevant agency to designate appropriate teams concerned officials to pursue cases forwarded by JTF.”
“The committee will monitor the progress of JTF and … provide an update to the SC at the end of each month starting from the end of September.”
“The committee and JTF may seek such assistance and information about bank accounts from any federal government department. “Likewise, the committee and task force may approach the authorities abroad for seeking information under the relevant laws/ bilateral/ multilateral legal treaties and international conventions.
“During the process of these proceedings, the committee will also identify the legislative limitations and administrative bottlenecks that hamper or slowdown such proceedings and make recommendations to suitably rectify such shortcomings. The office of the Attorney-General … will provide full support to the committee and JTF.”
However, a senior PTI leader, who is a member of the federal cabinet, expressed concern that the committee had not apprised the Supreme Court about the government’s initiatives to retrieve unlawful money from abroad.
He said the PTI-led government had already taken the ownership of the issue.
He expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would allow the new government to take steps to retrieve the money, adding the government should apprise the apex court about the progress in this regard.
Incidentally, the committee pointed out that on March 26, the apex court had formed a committee of 12 experts with insight into the process of accumulation of undeclared foreign assets by Pakistani citizens.