ISLAMABAD: While a joint investigation team is yet to be formed to probe the assets of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family following the Supreme Court judgement in the Panama Papers case, the Directorate Gen­eral of Intelligence and Invest­igation, Inland Revenue, Federal Bureau of Revenue, has said that tracing offshore companies has been a difficult task.

The first annual report by the DG I&I FBR highlights the inability of the tax authorities to trace the investors in offshore companies.

The annual report 2016 of the Directorate General of Intell­igence and Investigation, Inland Revenue, has highlighted that names and addresses of 70 such investors have been identified, but they could not be traced by the FBR.

The annual report has highlighted various issues such as money laundering, financial crimes and tax evasion by major sectors.

Ironically, the other key regulatory body to be part of the JIT — Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan — too has expressed limited success in its probe into the matter.

In a brief report submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, the SECP acknowledged that the companies registered in Pakistan had not made direct investment in offshore companies.

The report also said that those identified in the Panama Papers leaks might have foreign investments in their individual capacity and not routed through any company’s accounts, as reflected in the available record. Besides, the existing law in the country bars the SECP from inquiring the foreign companies about their investments elsewhere in the world.

Similarly, the annual report of the Directorate I&I, FBR, has said that addresses of around 70 individuals having offshore companies could not be traced by the FBR and National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and, therefore, notices could not be served on them.

The report said the names of 414 Pakistanis had surfaced in Panama and offshore leaks, but the FBR could obtain whereabouts and addresses of 344 individuals only.

Notices were issued in the first week of September 2016, requiring the individuals named in the Panama Papers to provide details of their investments in the offshore companies/trusts, the properties owned by these offshore entities and the income from offshore businesses.

The report said the Directorate General I&I-IR, had approached, through the foreign ministry, nine tax havens — governments of Panama, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Samoa, Anguilla, Seychelles, Mauritius, Nieu and Jersey — for obtaining detailed information about the individuals identified in the Panama Papers leaks.

The FBR said that in response to the notices, some non-resident Pakistanis claimed that they were not subject to Pakistani laws, many others had died, some denied having any link with offshore company.

The FBR said it was in correspondence with 72 persons and show cause notices had been issued to 10 such individuals, whereas 154 such persons remained untraceable due to incomplete addresses.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2017