ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Thursday formed a three-member committee to prepare Terms of Reference (TORs) that could help the government to recover money smuggled out of the country and deposited in foreign countries’ accounts.
According to details, the committee will be headed by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa and comprising Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Mohammad Irshad and Federal Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan. A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan gave one week to the committee to work on the process.
During the course of proceedings, SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa said Pakistan had signed a treaty with the Swiss government to share information of Pakistani citizens who had opened their bank accounts there. Swiss authorities would share information in this regard in December this year, he added.
He said the government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) also started providing information about Pakistanis who have properties abroad. The chief justice remarked that the court did not want to create panic as the departments could use multiple ways to bring money in Pakistan.
The FBR chairman said out of 444 people whose names were revealed in the Panamagate papers, 78 people had yet to be traced. The FBR also issued notices to 293 individuals, he added. The FBR chairman also informed that Rs6.6 billion had been recovered from two individuals. The bench also sought details of vehicles used by the FBR officials. The FBR also submitted report highlighting the legal difficulties being faced by the FBR.
According to the report, even though the FBR was investigating Pakistanis that were named in the Panama Papers, there was no legal framework available for the provision of information regarding foreign assets and accounts. However, an amendment could enable authorities to gain details of the money and assets stashed abroad, the report said.
The chief justice remarked that while there were citizens who had used legal means to transfer money abroad, a majority of people smuggled the money into foreign countries. The court directed the committee to investigate the amount of money that had been transferred from Pakistan to foreign countries accounts.
Justice Bandial asked the committee to investigate how much money was transferred illegally and at the same time warned that the investigation must not exceed legal boundaries. The chief justice expressed his confidence in the committee officials and said the nation would hail them as heroes if they succeeded in paving a legal channel for bringing back the money stashed abroad.
He observed it was said that all debts of country would be paid if the money stashed abroad was brought back to the country. Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that the investigation should not create any panic in the country. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar formed the committee after the FBR claimed there were no legal guidelines available for the tax authority to retrieve money deposited in banks abroad. NNI