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Asset Recovery Unit to begin probing thousands of foreign properties held by Pakistanis

October 05, 2018

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Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar address a joint press conference in Islamabad. ─PID
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar address a joint press conference in Islamabad. ─PID

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar in a joint press conference with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Friday said that the newly constituted Asset Recovery Unit comprising National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency officials will investigate thousands of properties abroad held by Pakistanis, Radio Pakistan reported.

Akbar said that members of the ARU had been selected, and details of over 10,000 properties in Dubai and England had been received.

He added that details of at least half of the 10,000 properties were previously available but no action was taken.

Notices have been issued for 300 properties from the list.

He added that the list had been divided into two parts, one for politically exposed people, and one for other citizens.

The ARU will submit a fortnightly progress report to the Supreme Court, he said.

Akbar also said that Islamabad is in contact with the Swiss government regarding the ratification of a treaty for exchange of information.

Akbar said that the treaty would be ratified and acted upon soon.

Akbar claimed that ratification of the Swiss treaty for the exchange of information, which would give Pakistan information on bank accounts, was supposed to be completed by 2013-14 but had been intentionally delayed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar who prevented the ratification from taking place for five years.

The special assistant on accountability said that the solution their department had found for this was to approach the German government, which has in 2013 announced that it had acquired information on Swiss accounts until then, and would make it publicly available to all governments, particularly those of developing countries.

Despite this, Akbar said, the government of Pakistan had not asked the German government for this information.

"You all know whose details would have come out if they had asked for the information," he remarked.

Akbar said that their department had officially asked the German government for the information and once it was received, they would be able to access information for accounts created, both in the past, and in the future.

He said that India had previously taken information on Swiss accounts from the German government, which Pakistan quoted as an example in their request to the German government for which they are awaiting a response.

He hoped that keeping the government's vision in mind, and the cooperation that they are receiving, Islamabad would receive the same cooperation from the German government so that proceedings could be initiated against the information regarding Swiss bank accounts.

The Prime Minister's special assistant on accountability said that Pakistan had also invited other countries such as the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, China and the United States with whom it has existing bilateral treaties to revisit these treaties and add similar clauses for the exchange of information. Akbar said that this was to ensure that banking and asset details could be provided to Pakistani institutions.

He said that the previous government's shortcomings were evident in the arrangement with the US, which allows Washington to access Pakistanis' details but does not grant similar access to Islamabad as there is no such clause in the agreement.

"These are the shortcomings that we are trying to eliminate," said the PM's special accountability assistant.

Akbar added that with regards to the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, other than the Supreme Court proceedings one "one case", no proper investigation had been initiated into the allegations in the leaks.