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100 Pakistanis own properties in Dubai, FIA tells NA body

Updated November 24, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investiga­tion Agency (FIA) on Thursday presented a list of 100 Pakistanis who own properties in Dubai to a sub-committee of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, but no government agency has been able to ascertain whether they had complied with regulatory requirements or obtained the assets through illegal means.

The sub-committee discussed reasons for the failure of government functionaries to gather details of purchase of properties worth $8 billion by Pakistanis over the last four years in Dubai.

The sub-committee is headed by Dr Shezra Mansab Ali, and its members include Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Asad Umar, and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Isphanyar M. Bhandara, who does not attend meetings, and Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh of the PML-N who attends it voluntarily.

Members of the sub-committee were informed earlier that neither the FIA nor the Federal Board of Revenue or the State Bank was empowered to demand details of Pakistanis who had made investments abroad. They were told that the National Accountability Bureau was the focal agency mandated to probe money laundering or corruption cases with other countries. Incidentally, nobody from NAB attended the meeting.

Regrets inability to get more information, cites lack of cooperation by UAE authorities

The FIA team, led by its director Zaheer Ahmed, presented a list of 100 people who own properties in Dubai, and explained that the list was a part of an inquiry conducted by the FIA’s Karachi office.

While presenting the list, the FIA director said it was yet to be determined whether the property owners were residents of Pakistan or non-residents.

The sub-committee was earlier informed that neither the State Bank nor the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had accorded anyone permission to invest in property abroad. The sub-committee had expressed concern over the government’s lackadaisical attitude towards finding out how such a massive amount came to be invested by Pakistanis in properties abroad.

Tariq Pasha, the FBR chairperson, said Pakistan had a double taxation treaty with the UAE, but they had not responded to queries floated by the FBR over the past several years.

Asad Umar pointed out that the UAE had responded to queries sent by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Panama Papers case against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. “Why is that they did not respond [to questions regarding] details of ordinary Pakistanis but could answer questions about a sitting prime minister?” Mr Umar asked.

Members of the sub-committee were informed about certain flaws in the anti-corruption laws which needed to be rectified, as the law for the FIA in this regard was the Foreign Assets Declaration Regulations 1972.

The sub-committee is expected to present its report to the NA standing com­mittee with the recommendation to seek NAB’s cooperation in pursuing the matter.

Later, the NA Standing Committee on Finance held a meeting chaired by Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh in which it was decided that matters regarding the ownership of overseas properties by Pakistanis will not be forwarded to NAB.

The committee’s members, including Dr Nafisa Shah, demanded that such a decision be taken after the main committee had a chance to discuss the sub-committee’s report.

The standing committee also discussed issues pertaining to investments in the domestic real estate sector and actions taken by the FBR in this regard. The committee was of the view that the FBR should remove the upper limit cap, imposed under the Income Tax Act, 2016. The committee recommended that the FBR should allow the real estate sector to declare the actual price of the land.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017