ISLAMABAD  -  The Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) of the Task Force on recovery of unlawfully acquired assets abroad headed by Federal Minister for Finance Assad Umer has stepped up efforts to track down illegal assets and crackdown on the culprits with an iron hand.

This was stated by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar in a joint press conference with Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry here on Friday.

Mirza Shahzad Akbar said details of more than 10,000 properties have been received which are in Dubai and England.

Shahzad Akbar said list of properties have been divided into two portions, one for politically exposed people and one for rest of the people.

He said officials from National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency will investigate the cases.

He said a progress report of the recovery unit is being submitted in Supreme Court fortnightly.

He said Attorney General has prepared a draft for legislation to stop money laundering which will be presented in next cabinet meeting for approval. He said government is also working to ratify treaty with Switzerland to get information about Swiss accounts.

Shahzad  said the govt has decided to investigate Panama and Paradise leaks thoroughly. He said notices will be issued for payable amount to former Punjab chief minister and his family for using Prime Minister’s helicopter. Akbar said members of ARU had been selected, and details of over 10,000 properties in Dubai and England had been received. He added that details of at least half of the 10,000 properties were previously available but no action was taken.

Notices have been issued for 300 properties from the list. He said until now, Supreme Court was alone fighting against corruption but now the government was fully supporting the apex court in this regard. “We will provide a list of 300 corrupt people to apex court for further investigation,” he added. He informed that among these properties, two flats in London were registered in the personal name of ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar, and these properties were not known to anyone before.

Shahzad said majority of these properties were `benami’ assets and were registered in the name of wives, children or personal employees of the big names.

Regarding exchange of information about Swiss accounts of Pakistani nationals, he said the  government had officially sought information about the Swiss accounts from the German government who have the record of all accounts until 2013-14. “India has already procured such information from the German government and we hope that soon we will also manage to get information about Swiss accounts of the Pakistani nationals,” he remarked.

He said Ishaq Dar took initiative regarding exchange of information with the Swiss government but it was just a show off and in fact he himself did not want to get information about the Swiss accounts. He said the govt was working to sign bilateral agreements with different countries regarding exchange of information.

The Unit, he said has also started investigation about offshore companies in Panama and other places and the politically exposed people’s companies would be specifically investigated.

He said having properties or companies in Panama was not a crime itself but hiding the properties was a crime according to the law.

Speaking on the occasion, Fawad said notices have been issued to one hundred and fifty seven people who have not filed their tax returns.

He said attracting foreign investment, facilitating businessmen and crackdown on corruption are three pillars of government’s economic policy. He said the govt will initiate an initial investigation into 895 properties – notices have already been sent to 300 owners.  He added the previous govts were aware of 5,000 properties but had failed to take action.

The newly-formed recovery unit will also work for the ratification of a treaty with Switzerland which will enable sharing of information related to financial assets.

The govt has sent notices to public office holder who ‘misused’ govt resources and sought reimbursement, Fawad said. “A notice has also been issued to former chief minister and current Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif for unnecessary use of aircraft,” he said. “We will demand reimbursement for all unnecessary and careless use of government resources.”

He accused Senator Mushahidullah Khan of adding to PIA losses with a medical bill of Rs10 million and added an inter-departmental inquiry has been launched to probe misuse of power by government officials. He asserted that the business community will benefit from the measures taken by the government. Citing recent controversies regarding common people discovering millions in their bank account, the information minister said investigations will help discover the truth about the real owners of the money.

Referring to Panama Papers, Fawad said, “Every person mentioned in Panama leaks is a criminal”.

Referring to Supreme Court’s notice to Imran Khan in the Bani Gala encroachment case, Fawad said it was a positive sign of “Naya Pakistan” that even the prime minister is made accountable.