–Chief Justice Nisar forms 3-member committee to draft TORs after FBR says there’s no legal framework to bring back looted wealth
–Committee will be headed by SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa and comprises FBR Chairman Mohammad Irshad and Federal Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday formed a three-member committee to prepare the Terms of Reference (TORs) that can help the government recover money stored in foreign accounts through illegal means, after the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) informed him that there were no legal guidelines for retrieving such money.
The committee formed by the CJP will be headed by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa and comprises Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Mohammad Irshad and Federal Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan.
Chief Justice Nisar had taken a suo motu notice of foreign bank accounts held by Pakistani citizens on February 1. The three-member SC bench, that also comprises Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, had asked the FBR to inform the court what 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 directed the FBR, SBP, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Finance Ministry to submit a detailed report on the matter in court.
The CJP said 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, he directed FBR Chairman Tariq Mahmood Pasha ─ 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.
The report that was submitted by FBR on Thursday highlighted the legal difficulties being faced by the top revenue watchdog. 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 can enable authorities to gain details of the money and assets stored abroad.
The CJP said 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 officials were told by the bench to investigate the amount of money that had been transferred from Pakistan to foreign accounts.
Justice Bandial told the committee to investigate how much money was transferred illegally and at the same time warned that the investigation must not exceed legal boundaries.
“First you need to identify the people who transferred their money abroad without paying tax [on it],” Justice Bandial said.
“This is a matter of tax payment and public welfare,” he added.
Chief Justice Nisar expressed his confidence in the committee officials and said that the nation will hail them as “heroes” if they succeeded in paving a legal channel for bringing back the money stored abroad.
“It is said that all our debts would be paid if the money stored abroad is brought back to the country,” the CJP said.
Justice Bandial, however, said that the investigation should not “create any panic” in the country.
About filing of income tax returns, the FBR reported that 47 out of 61 non-filers, named in the Panama Papers, have filed their income tax returns.