ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khanum to pay Rs29.4 million in taxes and fine for concealing her property abroad, warning that failure to deposit the amount would entail confiscation of her properties.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a case against 44 politically exposed individuals or their benamidars who possess properties abroad. Aleema Khanum and her counsel Salman Akram Raja appeared in court.

The chief justice asked Aleema Khanum how much she had spent on purchase of the property in the United Arab Emirates and the answer was $370,000. She said she had bought the property in 2008 and sold it last year. When the chief justice asked whether she had purchased the property with her own money, she said 50 per cent of the amount had been secured as mortgage while the rest was paid by her.

Aleema Khanum says she bought UAE property for $370,000 in 2008 and sold it last year

Salman Raja said: “We have submitted details of bank transactions and accounts to the court.”

The chief justice remarked: “Then deposit Rs18 million within a week.”

But the commissioner inland revenue, who probed Aleema Khanum’s tax details, informed the court that as per estimates she was required to pay tax returns worth Rs29.4m.

The court said Ms Khanum had the right of appeal, but before that she would have to file income tax returns. “If Aleema Khanum wants, she can take legal action against FBR [Federal Board of Revenue] officials, but before filing an appeal she will have to pay Rs2.94m,” it remarked.

Chief Justice Nisar had taken suo motu notice of Aleema Khanum’s property in Dubai on Nov 28. The chief justice, who was in London to raise funds for construction of dams in Pakistan, was informally speaking to journalists who drew his attention to the matter of her properties abroad.

Ms Khanum deposited half the total cost of her previously undeclared Dubai property with tax authorities as penalty earlier this month. According to officials, she paid 25pc of the total estimated amo­unt of her luxurious The Lofts East 1406 flat as taxes and 25pc as fine.

The prime minister’s sister was given a double penalty (taxes and fine) because she did not disclose the property worth around Rs74m.The flat is located in the heart of Dubai, adjacent to Burj Khalifa, the most expensive area in the UAE.

Aleema Khanum, in her affidavit submitted to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team, stated: “The Lofts East 1460 was paid for from funds generated from my business dealings overseas. Further, I have already disposed of my property and have also informed the FBR about the purchase and sale of the said property.”

The FIA had on Oct 27 submitted to the Supreme Court details of 44 close relatives of prominent political personalities who owned properties in the UAE.

During the hearing on Thursday, the FIA submitted a summary regarding foreign properties. According to the summary, 96 more Pakistanis have been identified for having properties abroad. The total number of Pakistanis with properties abroad now stands at 2,154. Out of these, 1,208 people own properties in the UAE.

Notices had been sent to at least 21 such Pakistanis in accordance with the court order and about Rs45m recovered, the summary added.

The chief justice said Rs45m had been recovered from five individuals, wondering what the FBR had been doing in the past.

The FBR member operations said the board was thankful to the court.

“Why the court has to intervene in every matter,” the chief justice asked and said the saga involved at least Rs300 billion.

The FIA director general informed the court that more properties held by Pakistani nationals abroad were being detected and agreed that the amount would go beyond Rs300bn.

The court also grilled an individual from Lahore for availing the amnesty scheme to whiten a cash amount of Rs1bn by paying just Rs50m and asked the FIA and FBR to probe his source of income.

Taking suo motu notice of the matter, the apex court had observed that it appeared that the money siphoned off abroad without payment of taxes through illegal channels represented either ill-gotten gains or kickbacks from public contracts.

“Such money creates gross disproportion, inequality and disparity in society, which warps economic activity and growth, and constitutes plunder and theft of national wealth,” it had said.

In an earlier order, the court had observed that it was common knowledge for years that a large number of Pakistani citizens were maintaining their bank accounts in other countries without disclosing these to the authorities competent under the laws of Pakistan or paying taxes on the same in accordance with the law.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2018