ISLAMABAD: The apex court on Thursday issued directives to 13 individuals to submit by next Tuesday details of their United Arab Emirates (UAE) properties.
As the three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, resumed hearing of the suo motu case regarding retrieval of unlawful amounts stashed abroad, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Bashir Memon stated that on the last date of hearing, the court had summoned 20 individuals, of which, seven were abroad and 13 were present.
On the bench’s query, the DG stated of the seven, five individuals left the country after the court issued summons on October 25. The CJP questioned whether they ran away, to which, the FIA DG replied in a light manner that he (CJP) new better.
However, the bench ordered the 13 individuals to appear before the FBR next Tuesday and give detailed explanation about their properties in the UAE.
The court also ordered the FIA to ensure that its representative took part in the inquiry to maintain uniformity in the probe, and submit an inquiry report within 10 days.
The CJP said that the court would take strict action against individuals found uncooperative. “Everyone, including overseas Pakistanis, should come and appear before the inquiry team led by the FBR,” said Nisar.
He told the FBR if they could not arrest the ones holding properties abroad, they should proceed against them according to the relevant law.
“There should be substantial material against anyone before starting proceedings,” he said, adding that the matter of 13 persons was given to the FBR as a test case.
Earlier, the DG FIA submitted that Pakistanis own 894 properties in Dubai, while 374 individuals took advantage of the amnesty scheme and disclosed their assets. However, 150 individuals did not disclose their properties while 82 denied ownership.
He said an inquiry into the matter was halted for two months, when an amnesty scheme was introduced by the federal government, adding that now the “inquiry process has restarted”.
The director general said 150 individuals possess 203 properties and each property is worth more than Rs50 million.
The apex court had initiated the suo motu proceedings for retrieval of unlawful assets on February 1. Later, different committees were constituted to give proposals to stop money laundering as well as retrieve amounts.
Several proceedings were conducted, in which a number of financial experts also gave their input. The court on March 26 constituted a committee of 12 experts having insight into the process of accumulation of undeclared foreign movable and immovable assets by Pakistani citizens.
They were tasked with deliberating and recommending legislative and executive measures for tracing and retrieving such assets held abroad. However, the committee had advised the top court to “be pragmatic” in its approach, cautioning against any aggressive steps.
In its 28-page-long report, the committee said an all-out and uncompromising drive to retrieve untaxed funds stashed abroad might create panic and compromise economic recovery.
“Such a course becomes even more unattractive in view of the modest chances of success of such an initiative in the context of the limitations of the existing legal framework and the challenges of tracing and taxing the funds in offshore havens and other jurisdiction,” it said.
Later, a three-member committee, led by the SBP governor and comprising secretary finance and the FBR chairman, was formed for the sole purpose of achieving the objective – retrieving alleged ill-gotten foreign assets of Pakistanis – of suo motu proceedings.
The committee submitted proposals but the SC bench was visibly not satisfied with the steps taken for retrieval of money.