ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday took suo motu notice of foreign bank accounts held by Pakistani citizens.
The CJP said there are reports that people in positions of power have been looting money and transferring it to foreign countries.
The Supreme Court asked the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to submit a report in court on the steps it had taken regarding the matter of offshore companies after the release of the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, which revealed details of wealth stored abroad by Pakistani citizens. The court also directed the FBR, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Finance Ministry to submit a detailed report on the matter in court.
“The SBP, Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Federal Investigation Agency should share their information with the court,” the chief justice said.
He added that the Foreign Ministry and SBP should share details of Memorandums of Understanding and agreements to be inked with various countries for the return of looted money to the country.
Additionally, the CJP directed FBR Chairman Tariq Mahmood ─ a close aide of former finance minister Ishaq Dar ─ to tell the court how many Pakistanis hold accounts in Swiss banks, and banks in other countries.
Earlier this month, tax authorities said that the revised treaty on the Avoidance of Double Taxation did not cover past transactions, and thus it seemed the secret of the $200 billion stashed in Switzerland by Pakistanis will remain a secret.
“The scope of the revised treaty is limited to the transactions that would be carried out from January 2018,” said Dr Mohammad Iqbal, Member Inland Revenue Policy of the FBR.
He was apprising the Senate Standing Committee on Finance about the status of retrieving money that Pakistanis have stashed in Switzerland.
“The exchange of information would begin from January, but strictly speaking the information can be sought on [the] request only about the prospective transactions,” said Iqbal.
“Retrieving money of Pakistani nationals deposited in Swiss banks does not fall in the domain of the FBR nor is mandated by any agreement made for the avoidance of double taxation,” according to the FBR.
In August 2014, Pakistan initialed the revised treaty with Switzerland, which would have allowed it to get information in early 2015. Surprisingly, in September 2014, the federal government decided to renegotiate the treaty despite initializing the agreement. In May 2017, the federal cabinet finally ratified the revised bilateral treaty but it did not cover old transactions.
Iqbal defended the decision. He said that the negotiating team had given some favours to Switzerland which, according to him, was not in the national interest.