The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday assailed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and an income tax official for "slowing down" an investigation and "putting in cold storage" the case of Pakistani citizens holding undisclosed foreign bank accounts and properties abroad.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, while heading a three-member bench of the apex court, initially ordered the issuance of contempt-of-court notices against the two officials, but later rescinded the orders.
"We had made a joint investigation team so that the process could be sped up," the chief justice said, asking the officials to explain what they had done in the past one month since the JIT was formed.
"You have wasted a month-and-a-half of the court's time." Justice Nisar complained. "We had asked for the details of 20 people [who held assets abroad]. The FBR is using delaying tactics."
The FBR chairman told the court: "We have completed the initial investigation; the rest is to be done by field officers."
At this, the chief justice observed that the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) had provided FBR information on the matter but the latter "put it in cold storage."
During the hearing today, the court also suspended Land and Revenue Department member Habibullah, only to retract the orders later upon being asked for mercy.
The chief justice also inquired about the financial details of Aleema Khanum — Prime Minister Imran Khan's sister, who has been identified as benamidar of a property. The top judge asked where the documents on the case were. He was told that the files were in Lahore.
Earlier, a notice was issued to her through email as well as delivered at her home address, but her domestic staff said she was abroad.
"We sent you to Lahore to get them," Justice Nisar said, observing that people had created thousands of properties abroad and the FBR's "sympathies were still with them."
The FBR was directed to present its report on the matter in court on December 13.