ISLAMABAD: To step up its crackdown on white-collar crime, the federal government has set up the Anti-Benami Initiative Directorate General.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has notified that the directorate and its officers would be authorised to seize luxury vehicles, offshore investments, bank accounts, stocks and shares.
The institutional framework of the directorate has been finalised and administrative powers have also been delegated to the relevant officers and subordinates.
According to the FBR, anti-corruption agencies have failed to trace and documents the real beneficial owners of benami properties because of a lack of proper regulation, therefore the perpetrators could not be held accountable.
“However, in order to combat the menace of benami and take the spirit of accountability forward, the federal government has operationalised the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2017, which was dormant since February 2017,” the FBR office order read.
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“The FBR has been assigned the administration and implementation of this new stream of financial crime investigation and enforcement. This office order is aimed at streamlining of newly introduced the anti-benami regime in Pakistan.”
The FBR noted that benami transactions, the entailing phenomenon of benami moveable and immoveable properties, bank accounts, luxury vehicles, off-shore investments and stocks and shares, were one of the biggest threats to the country’s taxation system compromising its economic viability.
The white-collar crime agency will have two functional domains - independent authorities and administrative oversight along with the assistance of FBR, in tracing irregularities and carrying out field operations.
Both streams shall co-exist, though mutually exclusive yet complementing each other. For the legal functions, to be conducted by different Anti-Benami Authorities, their operational independence is fully protected under Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2017. However, THE FBR’s administrative facilitation, financial support and organisational oversight are essential for sustainable field operations, development and strengthening of this newly launched regime.
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According to Benami Transaction Act, authorities will have complete charge and their jurisdiction and appointments have been notified in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
The FBR has further specified the detailed functions to facilitate the directorate in achieving desired results and ensure the effective execution of the law.
BS-18 initiating officers will be appointed to conduct proceedings of the cases while BS-20 officers will be financial and administrative heads. The approving authority will also be under BS-20 officers.
BS-21-22 officers will adjudicate references filed by investigating officers hence have adjudicating authority.
The director general will provide administrative, logistical and financial support to anti-benami zones, and act as a focal point between the FBR and these zones.
It will also serve as a point of contact for all other agencies interacting with FBR in benami cases.