–CJP criticises FBR for ‘slowing down’ investigation in foreign assets and bank accounts case
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday sought a report on the inquiry against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khan and also criticised the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and an income tax official for “slowing down” an investigation and “putting in cold storage” the case of Pakistanis holding undisclosed foreign bank accounts and properties abroad.
A two-member bench headed by CJP Nisar was hearing a suo motu case on foreign bank accounts and assets owned by Pakistani citizens.
As the hearing went underway, CJP Nisar remarked, “We had ordered to look into 20 individuals who own properties in Dubai, but is an inquiry being conducted against others who bought foreign properties?”
The FBR chairman told the court, “We are forming special zones to look into Pakistanis who own properties in Dubai and special zones have been formed to deal with offshore accounts.”
At this, the chief justice inquired, “Where is the special committee’s report,” adding that “what is the report regarding the 20 individuals who appeared before FBR and the board of revenue should inform us about its performance till now”.
Following this, the court was informed that further investigations have been recommended by the FBR against 14 out of 20 people.
The top judge further inquired, “Why has further inquiry been recommended against Waqar Ahmed?”
However, the counsel said, “Waqar Ahmed appeared before FBR and was not summoned again.”
When the FBR member said that tracing assets is the job of field officers, the chief justice said, “It seems that FBR did not understand the court’s order. The court had formed a joint investigation team (JIT) which had to trace assets of 20 individuals.”
At this, the FBR member informed, “Naushad Ahmad declared seven properties and six before the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). An audit of his foreign assets is underway.” Following this, the top judge informed the FBR member that the court did not ask for an audit.
The CJP initially ordered the issuance of contempt of court notices against the two FBR officials, but later rescinded the orders. The court also suspended the Land and Revenue Department member Habibullah, only to retract the orders later upon being asked for mercy.
Justice Nisar further remarked, “You people want to prolong the case. FBR is prolonging the matter and also creating confusion.”
The top judge further questioned, “What happened in the Aleema Khan case?”
Having said that, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general sought time till Tuesday to make a committee and submit details in the court after three days.
However, the chief justice said, “Why don’t we suspend the member operations. If FBR does not want to be respected then we won’t respect it. Does FBR want to save those who send money abroad?” Following this, the FBR operations member said that an inquiry is being conducted in the Aleema Khan case.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan further remarked, “We asked FBR to conduct an inquiry in Islamabad not in Lahore.”
Turning to the operations member, Justice Nisar said, “What kind of a public officer are you? You people want to confuse the court. It seems that FBR is also involved.”
Expressing dissatisfaction over the performance of FBR and FIA’s special committee the bench observed, “Court orders were not implemented.”
Stating that “delay tactics are being used in the case”, Justice Nisar said, “FBR has even placed FIA’s efforts in a cold storage.”
The bench then directed that a report on the investigation against Aleema Khan be presented by December 13.
Earlier, the FBR had informed the SC that Aleema Khan did not benefit from a tax amnesty scheme on a flat in Dubai.
Appearing before a two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, Inland Revenue Service (IRS) Lahore Commissioner Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan had submitted that media reports of Aleema Khan taking the amnesty were incorrect.
On Friday, the SC had asked the FBR to provide the court with Aleema’s tax details in a sealed envelope after a tax official claimed that the PM’s sister had benefited from the amnesty scheme and thus her tax information was confidential.
The court has taken up a case against 44 ‘politically exposed individuals’ or their benamidars who possessed properties in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
MONEY SIPHONED OFF:
The list of politically exposed people was part of an annexure submitted to a three-judge SC bench comprising Justices Nisar, Faisal Arab and Ijazul Ahsan.
Taking suo motu notice of the matter, the apex court had observed that it appeared the money siphoned off abroad without payment of taxes through illegal channels represented either ill-gotten gains or kickbacks from public contracts.
“Such money creates gross disproportion, inequality and disparity in society, which warps economic activity and growth, and constitutes plunder and theft of national wealth,” it had said.
In an earlier order, the court had also observed that it was common knowledge for years that a large number of Pakistani citizens were maintaining their bank accounts in other countries without disclosing these to the authorities competent under the laws of Pakistan or paying taxes on the same in accordance with the law.