ISLAMABAD: In a major drive against benami properties, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday directed deputy commissioners and heads of development authorities to identify benami properties or suspected benami properties in their jurisdictions within one month as part of a government campaign to document the economy.
The directive came in the wake of government efforts to support the anti-corruption drive through pro-active policies and approaches to curb corruption at all levels in the government and society.
The development authorities in the provinces have been directed to identify such properties through their own records and monitoring mechanism/sources.
In a letter issued from his office, PM Khan said that deputy commissioner and head of the development authorities would issue a certificate that no benami property or suspected benami property existed in their jurisdiction apart from the ones identified.
The premier warned of harsh consequences for the deputy commissioners and the head of development authorities in the form of legal proceedings under relevant provisions of the benami act in case any benami property was identified at a later stage.
Benami law was enacted in Jan 2017 but action under it was put on the back burner due to delay in finalisation of rules
Mr Khan said that reports on the subject should be submitted to the Federal Board of Revenue chairman latest by end of the next month along with copies of the reports to his office.
The benami legislation — Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act — was made through an act of parliament in Jan 2017, but action under it was put on the back burner owing to delay in finalisation of rules. Finally, on March 12, 2019, the FBR notified the rules through a notification.
On July 23, FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi asked the chiefs of banks to collect details of benami account holders within two weeks.
The government announced a tax amnesty scheme on May 14 — which expired on July 3 — with the aim to provide maximum opportunity to people to declare their hidden assets and accounts. The government also has taken several other measures to document the economy.
The term benami refers to the practice of holding property/assets in the name of one person for the benefit of another. However, the practice is often aimed at concealing ownership of assets acquired through illegal means, defrauding creditors and evading payments of government fees, charges or taxes.
On August 20, the prime minister convened a meeting over the progress on benami properties. The premier called for implementation of the benami act to harvest its potential in the national and global contexts.
Mr Khan stressed the need for tracking benami properties across the country and asked the provincial governments to adopt a proactive role in initiating the tracking of benami properties through related institutions to support this national cause.
Earlier this month the government constituted a six-member Benami Information Processing Committee to function on the pattern of a joint investigation team for collection of data about benami properties. FBR member audit Nausheen Javed Amjad was appointed as national coordinator of the committee and its members include officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency, State Bank of Pakistan and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. The committee has been tasked with expediting action against benami assets and assisting relevant authorities to improve their performance.
The FBR benami zones in Karachi and Lahore have issued show-cause notices to several companies holding shares and immovable properties as benamidar. Some notices have also been issued to individuals.
The FBR has established three benami zones in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to enforce the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2017.
Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2019