ISLAMABAD - The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has decided to promulgate an ordinance to curb illegal transfer of money abroad and punitive action against the persons involved in it, the Task Force’s minutes of the meeting on Wednesday submitted in the Supreme Court revealed.
It was decided in the meeting that the Ministry of Finance in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Attorney General for Pakistan shall come up with draft Ordinance within one week to strengthen punitive regime against illegal transfers of money.
It stated that the meeting of the Task Force was held on September 3 chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on the issue of smuggling, Hawala & Hundi.
The minutes of the meeting were submitted by the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan during the hearing of a suo motu case regarding maintaining of foreign accounts by Pakistani citizens without disclosing the same or paying taxes.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan took up the case for hearing. “The object of the Ordinance would be to create effective deterrence by enhancing punishments in existing laws,” the minutes of the meeting stated. Minister of Finance Asad Qaiser shall hold a meeting with all stakeholders to chalk out detailed modalities for effective campaign against transfer of money through non-banking channels.
It was also decided that Ministry of Interior shall also convene a consultative meeting with all the law enforcement agencies, border forces, provincial governments and other relevant stakeholders to devise a detailed plan of action to curb rampant smuggling into Pakistan and illegal transfer of money through practices of Hundi and Hawala within two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Task Force on Recovery of Unlawfully Acquired Assets Abroad, keeping in view the directives of top court on the case, proposed an Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) under the same task force for swift and efficient recovery of unlawful assets.
The ARU shall be headed by Special Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability as its Chairman. The other members of ARU shall be representatives of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal board of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), 2 to 3 experts of forensic accounting and another officer if so required by the unit on temporary or permanent basis.
According to proposed Terms of References (ToRs), ARU shall gather existing cases, inquiries and investigations from relevant authorities. It shall through relevant department seek or pursue information required in such cases from government and other sources abroad. ARU may file any legal proceedings domestically or abroad through relevant government's agency for repatriation of assets from abroad.
“Where ARU finds foreign assets or bank accounts of Pakistani citizens with the suspicion of money laundering, the ARU may refer the matter and evidence attained to the relevant agency for expedient action.”
“For removal of hurdles, ARU shall also identify and suggest immediate actions for expediting or creation of any legal instrument within Pakistan like but not limited to MLA regime, or entering into bilateral or multilateral arrangements with foreign government agencies from time to time, for exchange of information and evidence,” stated the proposed ToRs.
“ARU may request any intelligence agency under the Government of Pakistan for its assistance in obtaining any information on any subject within and outside the country. For purpose of tracing foreign assets, working, travelling abroad and hiring of any expertise, ARU shall be allocated appropriate funds by the Ministry of Finance.” ARU shall report on its performance to the Prime Minister through its Chairman on fortnight basis, or as desired by the premier. ARU shall also report of its performance periodically to the Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, if he desired so.
During the course of hearing, AGP contended before the bench that the prime minister in the said meeting of September 3 directed that various laws which related to the accusation of property abroad, money laundering, smuggling and all modalities to be taken up on a fast track whereby the aim of the government for recovery of ill-gotten and laundered money kept in foreign bank is achieved.
He informed the bench that government was going to bring some new legislations and amendments in order to strengthen the law for such persons, who transfer money abroad through illegal means. He requested the top court to grant time so that government’s steps in the shape comprehensive reply be submitted before the top court. The top court granted the federal government two weeks time.
Two days ago, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had informed the top court that it had found 2,750 undisclosed properties of Pakistani nationals in UAE.
According to the FIA, if each property is valued at a conservative estimate of Rs40 million each (average), the value of UAE assets under inquiry with the Agency comes to Rs110 billion, which is only 2.5 per cent of total estimated undisclosed assets Rs4,240 billion in UAE only.
“A deep dive into the records of Real Estate Regulatory Agency of Dubai Land Department will be required to fathom the true magnitude of assets held in UAE,” it added.
It had also revealed that the British government had listed Pakistan among top three money laundering source countries after Nigeria and Russia. It added that by the close of Amnesty Scheme 2018, till July 31, 2018, declarations from 5,363 entities had revealed foreign assets worth Rs1,003 billion, ($8.1 billion), with major share of declared assets located in UAE. Asset holders in other tax-haven countries benefitted only marginally from this scheme.