Property leaks

Published May 18, 2024

THE leaked Dubai property data reported on by media organisations around the world earlier this week seems to have caused quite a stir. Even though some individuals — including the current defence minister — insist that there is ‘nothing’ in the published information, others, like Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, have taken strong exception to being named publicly as owners of offshore properties. In a televised press conference on Thursday, Mr Naqvi regretted that an impression had been created by the media that the individuals mentioned in the Dubai leaks had bought their properties through illegal means or hidden them from the tax authorities. Acknowledging that his wife owns properties in Dubai and London, Mr Naqvi insisted that these assets had been duly declared and acquired with his own resources. His indignation, to some degree, is understandable: it is nobody’s business to tell anyone what they should do with their money. However, Mr Naqvi must understand that, as a public officeholder, his transactions will frequently come under public scrutiny, as will the doings and dealings of other politicians. As long as his hands remain clean, there should be nothing for him to worry about.

It is also encouraging that Mr Naqvi has put his support behind calls for an inquiry into the leaked data, which can determine whether any of the identified properties were acquired unlawfully. The government must announce and begin an investigation without further ado, considering how helpful it will be to establish a zero-tolerance policy for tax evasion and money laundering while it negotiates bailouts from international lenders. As mentioned earlier in these pages, the country’s authorities have long sought this data from the Dubai administration but remained unsuccessful due to various diplomatic reasons. Now that the data is available, they have an opportunity to analyse it and compare it with their own records. As Mr Naqvi has pointed out, such an investigation should not harass law-abiding citizens who simply made an investment decision to purchase property abroad: its sole purpose must be to determine whether tax compliance regulations were followed and to catch violators wherever they are identified. Unfortunately, the country will continue to be seen negatively by lenders until it is able to put its own house in order. Demonstrating significant seriousness in this matter is a good place to start.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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