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SHAHZAD Akbar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability, addressing a press conference.—INP
SHAHZAD Akbar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability, addressing a press conference.—INP

ISLAMABAD: With a concrete plan in hand to fix the missing link of a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) law for obtaining evidence from other countries about financial crimes, the government will hold talks with the British authorities next week to seek details of assets of the Pakistani politicians, including former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who allegedly stashed their money in the United Kingdom (UK). Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, who will soon leave for the UK for this purpose, told a press conference on Sunday that he would also request for repatriation of Mr Dar and other accused in high-profile cases.

“I am going to the UK next week to hold talks with the head of the UK National Crime Agency to ink a memorandum of understanding on sharing of information on money launderers and tax evaders,” said Mr Akbar.

During his talks with the British authorities, he said, he would highlight the need for signing of an extradition treaty between Pakistan and the UK. But he added, “One of the hindrances in signing of extradition treaties between Pakistan and other countries is lack of proper Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) laws in the country. Whenever we ask other countries for the treaty, they regret because we do not have laws on MLA.”

PM’s aide says ordinance on MLA on anvil to expedite evidence collection in financial crimes

The PM’s special assistant said the government had recently finalised a law on MLA to obtain evidence from foreign jurisdictions about financial crimes and corruption cases involving Pakistanis.

“The law will soon be placed before the cabinet. It will be brought first through an ordinance and then presented before parliament,” he said.

Mr Akbar, who is a former deputy prosecutor general of National Accountability Bureau, expressed the hope that the law would further empower NAB and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to carry out the investigations as per international treaties.

Pakistan had already inked treaties of information sharing with 70 countries, he said, adding that the government was going to refresh them with those countries. Besides, he said, fresh agreements would also be signed with China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the exchange of information.

Mr Akbar said a bilateral treaty was again being ratified with the Swiss authorities which would enable the country to get details of the bank accounts opened by Pakistani nationals. He said the government would also approach Germany to seek information about assets of Pakistanis in Switzerland, as German authorities had already acquired such details through some leaks in 2011.

He said: “The government has expedited its efforts for repatriation of politicians, including former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who were allegedly involved in money laundering.

“The Supreme Court has already asked government departments concerned to find a way of getting the former finance minister extradited so that he could be produced in court.”

Responding to a question, the PM’s special assistant said his team had earlier decided to investigate 100 high-profile cases of money laundering. But initial investigations revealed that number of such cases was far higher than the initial estimate, he added.

He also announced that the assets recovery unit of the government would first go for civil proceedings against the Pakistanis allegedly involved in money laundering in UK courts. He said civil cases were decided earlier than the cases of money laundering in which two governments were involved, he said, explaining that civil cases were decided within18 months in the UK.

Earlier this month, the government had claimed to have detected over 10,000 properties of Pakistanis worth billions of rupees in the UK and the UAE.

Complaints against journalists

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Media Affairs Iftikhar Durrani, who accompanied Mr Akbar in the press conference, expressed ‘displeasure’ over some media reports and announced that he would take up the issue with journalists’ associations.

“Some of the reporters do angling in their reporting and I will talk to the unions of journalists on this,” he said, adding that the government had earlier filed complaints with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority on two recent reports.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2018