ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday formed a committee comprising the Federal Board of Revenue chairman, the State Bank of Pakistan governor and the Ministry of Finance secretary to prepare guidelines to bring back money illegally stashed in foreign countries by Pakistanis.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing the suo motu case about the bank accounts and properties held by the Pakistani citizens in foreign countries.

Earlier, the apex court while taking up the suo motu case had summoned representatives of the SBP, the FBR, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the finance ministry.

Additional Attorney General Waqar Rana filed a joint reply on behalf of SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa, Ministry of Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, FBR Chairman Tariq Mahmood Pasha and the SECP chairman.

The chief justice observed that many Pakistanis have opened bank accounts in foreign countries. The SBP governor said that Pakistanis have money and properties in 70 countries. He said that they have a treaty for bilateral information with some countries including Switzerland. However, he said, that they have to operate with different laws of various countries. “If we have specific information about a person’s accounts in such and such countries then it is easy to trace out that person’s wealth abroad,” he said.

The chief justice said that a request could be made to the countries with whom Pakistan has the treaty to get information about some Pakistanis and not all the citizens. The top judge asked them to develop a mechanism to ascertain the accounts and assets of the people abroad. The CJP directed them to sit together and prepare guidelines within a week.

Justice Umar Atta Bandial observed that it was not necessary that some people have taken money outside Pakistan to evade taxes or through money-laundering, but it was a must that the nation should know about such people’s wealth abroad. He said that if the money was returned Pakistan would prosperous. He said that the SBP governor, the FBR chairman and the Ministry of Finance secretary were men of intelligence, passionate and loyal and urged them to demonstrate it to their best abilities.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that a neighbouring country [India] brought back $800 million from Germany as Germany has a treaty with Switzerland. Bajwa said that they only could work under the bilateral treaties.

The chief justice noted that now Pakistanis have properties in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and even in Malaysia. He said that possibly some laws could be made to fill the lacuna in the existing laws.

Justice Bandial said that it was not the purpose of the court to create a panic. He, however, asked the officers to work hard. “You have to tell the lacunas in the existing laws. You have to identify the ways and means through that the money was transferred abroad. You have to apply your mind and tell about the properties.” The judge asked them what incentives could be given to the people so they bring their money from foreign countries.

The FBR chairman said that they have been trying to get information about the people, who have properties in Dubai, for the last 10 years.

He said that of 100 people they have got information about 55 persons, who have properties in Dubai. The chief justice remarked that there were more than 100 persons, and they might have purchased properties in Dubai on an ‘Iqama’.

The AAG told the court that a total of 440 persons’ names have been mentioned in the Panama Papers, and of them, they could not trace out 78 persons as only their names had been mentioned in the Panama Papers and not addresses.

He said that they have recovered Rs6.2 billion from two persons whose names were in the Panama Papers for having offshore companies. The court directed the FBR chief to pick up 10 names from the list, whose names were in the Panama Papers and submitted it to the court so that notices could be issued to them.

The case is adjourned for one week.