ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to tighten the noose around the necks of individuals involved in money laundering and illegally acquiring properties abroad.
A three-judge bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, heard a suo motu case about the retrieval of looted money from foreign countries.
During the proceedings, the bench directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to launch an inquiry against Pakistanis known to possess 2,700 properties all over the world.
Urging the DG FIA to initiate the probe, members of the bench called for determining whether or not these people had acquired properties through legal means. It also recommended that if the FIA was unable to probe all such properties, it “may summon top 20 individuals”.
During the course of the hearing, DG FIA Bashir Memon sought a month’s time to complete the probe but the court asked him to submit a progress report within 15 days.
The chief justice observed that Pakistanis owned assets worth Rs1,000 billion only in the UAE. He also asked the DG FIA to share the list of persons who owned properties abroad, especially in the UAE.
The bench said that such individuals would then be summoned and asked to explain their wealth, adding that there was ample space in the SC auditorium to summon all such individuals.
The CJP said that the Supreme Court “can pass orders under Article 184(3) on the recovery of such money”.
Seeking more time to submit a report, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan said the government could explain to the court on September 26 on how to retrieve all unlawful wealth from other countries.
Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Tariq Bajwa told the court that it was for the first time since 1947 that progress had been made on retrieving looted wealth from abroad. He said positive results were likely when the FIA was allowed to file requests for mutual legal assistance in this regard.
Bajwa reminded that previously, only NAB had the authority to send MLA requests.
However, another member of the bench, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, said that not a single dollar had returned from abroad.
The chief justice also wondered why the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) did not summon individuals involved in laundering money abroad, adding that if the FBR had no jurisdiction, the list should be provided to the apex court so that it could summon all such individuals.
The SBP governor said that as a pilot project, the government was considering initiating an inquiry about 550 properties in the UAE.
Earlier, the attorney-general informed the court about the government resolve to launch a crackdown on money laundering and Hundi and Hawala.
He said the FIA Peshawar had, in a joint operation with Peshawar police, carried out an operation against illegal Hundi and Hawala operators on September 15, detaining as many as 40 Hawala agents.
On the issue of taxing foreign assets of Pakistani citizens and residents, the Assets Recovery Unit (ASU) is working on a treaty on avoidance of double taxation with Switzerland. Pakistan had already ratified this treaty while its ratification was awaited by the Swiss side.