ISLAMABAD -  The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue yesterday approved the Benami Transaction Prohibition Bill 2016 with certain amendments that included reward for the whistleblower for detection of Benami property or transaction.

After approval of the bill from the Senate, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) would take action against the people who are holding properties on the name of other people. The National Assembly had already passed the bill.

Legislation defines the Benami transaction as an arrangement where property is held by a person (other than in fiduciary capacity) on behalf of another person who has paid for it; or the transaction made for a property in a fictitious name; or the owner of the property is not aware of or denies knowledge of such ownership. The provisions of the proposed Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Bill, 2016 will not apply to any transaction entered into by an individual in the name of his spouse, brother or sister, or any lineal ascendant or descendant. The bill has proposed 1 to 7 years of imprisonment for a person found guilty of being involved in a benami transaction and imposition of 25 percent penalty of the fair market value of benami property. The government had presented the Benami bill in the parliament as part of a commitment to the International Monetary Fund.

The bill proposed that FBR would give reward for the whistleblower for providing information about Benami property/transaction. However, the claim for reward by the whistleblower will be rejected if the information provided is of no value.

"There are large numbers of benami bank accounts in the country and a huge number of properties are also benami,” said Chairman FBR Nisar Khan during Senate Standing Committee meeting.

The State Bank of Pakistan has opposed the bill. The officials of the SBP said that banking sector of the country could be suffered by giving powers to FBR for raiding banks for checking accounts. They said that there is no need for a new law, as there are criminal laws for banks.

The Chairman FBR and Committee advisor on law Mohsin Kamal exchanged hot words on the issue of Benami transactions bill. The committee also considered the ‘Public Private Partnership Authority Bill, 2016. Secretary Finance briefed the meeting about the aims and objects of the Bill. The Committee was of the view that the bill requires detailed clause by clause consideration. It deferred the bill for further consideration in the next meeting.

The Protection of Economic Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was also brought into consideration. Representatives of different banks and stakeholders concerned apprised the committee about their point of view on the bill.

The meeting was attended among others by Senators Mushahidullah, Muhammad Mohsin Khan Leghari and Sardar Fateh Muhammad Muhammad Hassani, senior officers of the Ministry of Finance and FBR.