ISLAMABAD - The committee constituted by the Supreme Court Saturday proposed its terms of references and establishment of a joint task force (JTF) for taking appropriate actions to bring back the undisclosed assets of Pakistani citizens stashed abroad.
The nine-member standing committee is headed by the State Bank of Pakistan governor and comprises the finance secretary, the Ministry of Interior secretary, the Federal Board of Revenue chairman, the National Accountability Bureau deputy chairman, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general, the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) chairman, a representative of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and a representative of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The committee, in compliance with the top court’s August 7 order, held two meetings and approved the ToRs for achieving the objective.
According to the ToRs, the committee will initially proceed on the basis of information about the assets of Pakistani citizens in UAE with the help of FIA and identify the persons or assets where sufficient information is available to conduct an enquiry.
The committee will also examine the possibility of using the information available with the FBR about assets of Pakistani citizens in UK obtained under the OOECD multilateral convention, considering both explicit and implied terms and conditions under which this information has been provided.
The committee will also constitute a JTF consisting of representatives of the FIA, FBR, NAB and such other agencies or organisations or persons as it may deem appropriate. The JTF will summon the persons identified by the committee for personal hearings.
“The persons refusing to appear before the JTF or using evasive tactics to avoid appearance will be reported to the committee which shall submit in the monthly reports the names of such persons to the Supreme Court for appropriate order,” it added.
The persons appearing before the JTF will be asked to either confirm that they or their dependents or spouses own the reported foreign assets or submit an affidavit that the said assets do not belong to them. Where such an affidavit is submitted, the FIA or the relevant agency will approach relevant authorities informing them that the reported owners of certain assets have, on affidavit, denied their ownership.
The FIA or the relevant agency will request the relevant authorities to initiate appropriate proceedings with respect to such assets under their anti-money laundering legislations or provide prosecutable evidence to the law-enforcement agency concerned to enable it to proceed against such persons under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2017, or any other law.
The persons acknowledging the ownership of foreign assets will be asked to provide details about the sources used to acquire these assets and whether or not these assets have been duly declared in their wealth statements.
The JTF will ask the FBR to levy and recover due tax from such persons in case the JTF finds that the sources of the funds used to acquire foreign assets are legitimate, but either due tax was not paid or such assets were not duly declared.
In case where the persons owning foreign assets are not able to explain the sources of funds used to acquire such assets or the JTF finds that the sources of such funds were not legitimate, the JTF will ask the relevant law-enforcement agency to pursue such cases in accordance with the law.
“The relevant law-enforcement agency in such cases may also initiate proceedings for confiscation of underlying assets if it is able to establish that these assets were acquired from proceeds of crime,” it added. The committee will ask the FBR, FIA and NAB to designate appropriate teams of officials concerned to pursue cases forwarded by the JTF to these agencies. The committee will put in place a suitable mechanism to monitor the progress by the JTF. The committee will also provide an update to the top court at the end of each month starting from the end of September 2018.
The committee and its JTF may seek such assistance, including information about bank accounts, as it may deem necessary from any agency or department operating in Pakistan. Any such entity from whom any assistance or information is required will provide such assistance and information within such time and in such manner as may be prescribed by the committee or the JTF.
“The committee and the JTF may also approach the authorities abroad for seeking information under the relevant laws, bilateral or multilateral legal treaties and international conventions,” it added.
During the process of these proceedings, the committee will identify legislative limitations and administrative bottlenecks that hamper or slow down such proceedings and make recommendations to suitably rectify such shortcomings.
The office of the attorney general for Pakistan will provide full support to the committee and JTF. The top court will take up the matter on September 3 to decide whether the proposed ToRs should be approved or more amendments are required.
SYED SABEEHUL HUSSNAIN