The Supreme Court was told on Monday that Pakistanis own around $150 billion worth of properties and assets in the UAE alone.
The revelation came in a report compiled and presented in court by chartered accountancy firm A.F. Ferguson. The report was submitted in connection with a SC case on Pakistani nationals' properties and bank accounts abroad. The firm, however, cautioned that the data be 'handled with care'.
"Such a massive amount is still parked abroad despite the amnesty scheme?" Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar asked those present.
State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa briefed the apex court on measures taken to recover the identified funds, saying: "Notices have been issued to the 125 people who have assets in the UAE. If they write on affidavits that they do have assets outside of Pakistan, we will interrogate and tax them. But if they deny that, then we can take the help of the UAE government and ask them to take action in accordance with benami properties law."
The SBP governor said that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and other agencies' assistance had also been sought.
The chief justice expressed his dissatisfaction on the progress of the case, remarking that those concealing their assets abroad qualify for money laundering trials.
Shabbar Zaidi, the audit firm's chief, told the court that wealth is transferred outside Pakistan via two channels: "Havala and banking routes".
As regards the latter, he said: "Funds are moved abroad by showing it as agricultural income."
At this, Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked the SBP governor if a ban has been placed on transferring foreign exchange outside Pakistan.
"Only a sum of $10,000 is permitted to be taken outside of Pakistan," Bajwa said.
The SBP governor further said that a separate list of 225 Pakistani nationals who have properties in London has also been obtained.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Mansoor Ali Khan assured the court that the new government is "serious about bringing back the money".
"A task force has been formed under the PM's stewardship," the attorney general said. "The govt wants the apex court to provide guidance in this regard."
While the Ferguson reported the figure of Pakistani-owned assets in the UAE at around $150bn, the FIA's summary, mentioned in the written order later in the day, put the assets' worth at $110bn.