ISLAMABAD-Jolted by massive tax-evasion findings in the report of the Suddle Commission appointed by the Supreme Court, the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) on Saturday said it would examine the facts and figures against property tycoon Malik Riaz and others and take action according to the law.

“We will examine the report of the Shoaib Suddle Commission after receiving it and will take action against Malik Riaz and others if we find concrete evidence regarding tax evasion,” said Asrar Rauf, senior member and official spokesperson for the FBR, when contacted by The Nation.

“The tax evasion by Malik Riaz can be around Rs 120 billion as Shoaib Suddle is also the federal tax ombudsman and has a team of professional tax experts, so his report cannot be neglected,” said an official of the Finance Ministry, wishing not to be named.

Meanwhile, the FBR officials and some known economists believe that the massive tax evasion under political pressure is the order of the day in the tax collection system of the country, background interviews strongly suggest. “The case of Malik Riaz Hussain is just the tip of the iceberg and many more such cases could be traced on scrutiny of the department’s record,” a top government official told The Nation on condition of anonymity.

The latest Shoaib Suddle Commission report says that the real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz, has evaded taxes to the tune of around Rs120 billion or an amount roughly equivalent to around $1.2 billion – one of the biggest tax evasion scandals of the country. Dr Shoaib Suddle, a career bureaucrat and the federal tax ombudsman, in his report says that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is unable to take action against the real estate tycoon due to political pressure during the last several years.

Observers believe a strong political clout and other prevalent tactics helped property mogul Malik Riaz hoodwink the officials of the FBR and evade around Rs 120 billion tax.

Background discussions with FBR officials have further revealed that the tax department did not take action against the tax evaders despite having data only because of political pressure. According to the high-ups of the tax department, the FBR has currently compiled the data of 3.8 million tax evaders who are enjoying a luxurious life without paying any penny to the national kitty. The government, instead of taking action, is offering them a chance to voluntarily declare their income and assets and get them legalised in return for paying a fixed tax.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has strongly opposed the proposed tax amnesty scheme of the government and proposed action against 3.8 million tax evaders.

 “The FBR has the data of the tax evaders of the country, but cannot take action against them due to political pressure,” said a former senior official of the FBR on condition of anonymity. He further said the FBR had to face pressure from political parties when it started planning to take action, so it brought tax amnesty schemes. Another senior official said there were hundreds of other cases in the FBR like that of Malik Riaz, but the tax department was taking no action.

Economists and international financial institutes believe that the country’s deficit budget could be controlled if taxation system improves. “Billions of rupees can be generated if we bring reforms in the system which can save the country from foreign loans,” said eminent economist Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan, talking to The Nation.