ISLAMABAD: As it did in Panama Leaks case, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) may issue notices to those Pakistanis named in the new leaks known as “Paradise Leaks”, and ask them about the ownership of their offshore companies and the source of money used in purchasing the firms.
According to sources at FBR, the board, irrespective of what responses it received from Panama beneficiaries, would issue notices to all those people who fell within the ambit of Paradise leaks, released on Sunday.
However, official sources at Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) claimed since promulgation of Companies Act 2017, that it had made compulsory for all those firms registered with SECP to declare if they have any shareholdings abroad. “As the Companies Act 2017 was promulgated in September 2017, SECP would strictly monitor implementation on the new rules under which director of a firm was bound to inform SECP about any investment in foreign companies including offshore ones,” said the officials.
In reply to a query whether SECP would pursue the owners of Pakistani firms named in Paradise Leaks, officials said that authentication of such leaks had been an issue. “Until the validity of such documents is proved in the courts, SECP cannot unilaterally take action against any firm. However, the commission will take action if its finds violation of the new Companies Act 2017 by any firm,” they added.
Talking to Pakistan Today, former FBR chairman Dr Irshad said that FBR had issued notices to over 400 persons named in Panama leaks and they were asked about ownership of the offshore companies and the source of money used in purchasing such firms. “A good number of firms had replied to the notices saying when and how they purchased the offshore companies. FBR had started investigation and due process following the replies from the firms,” he said. “I think FBR will issue notices to the beneficiaries in Paradise Leaks and take due course of action as these people are actually the blacksheeps who send money abroad illegally,” he added.
Talking about success stories of FBR in the move against Panama beneficiaries, Dr Irshad said that FBR’s Directorate General Intelligence and Investigation (I&I) Inland Revenues (IR) had recovered over Rs 6 billion from a couple, Bashir Dawood and Maryam Dawood of the Dawlance Group, under the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 after a move followed by the Panama revelation.
The Panama papers had helped FBR in proving the case of tax evasion, tax fraud and money laundering against Dawood family. No government agency had ever recovered such a huge amount in any case where individuals were involved in a financial crime like corruption, laundering, and smuggling. The name of Dawood family was also listed in the Panama Leaks. In the reference case of sale of Dawlance Group to Turkish industrial group, an offshore shell company in the British Virgin Islands was used by the accused to launder the money.
“I had submitted the breakups and other details about FBR’s move against the Panama beneficiaries to Supreme Court of Pakistan. The process of probe into the offshore investments by Pakistani firms and individuals was going on at FBR till my retirement as head of the institution,” he said, adding that the regulators like FBR should not hesitate to take action against the looters of public money.
According to a report in Paradise Leaks papers, as many as 135 Pakistani individuals with accounts in a Swiss bank were also identified, which they either created in their own name or through offshore companies. Former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was among those individuals named in the new leaks.
It may be recalled here that apart from issuing notices to the owners of offshore firms, FBR, SECP, State Bank of Pakistan and other regulators have been under fire for not deliberating negligence in investigation into Panama case against heads of the ruling party.
According to sources, out of 600 companies (registered in Pakistan in which Pakistanis named in Panama Papers are directors), a total of 38 companies were found having foreign investments/borrowings other than as reported by Panama papers. These 38 companies included 16 listed companies, 8 public unlisted companies and 14 private companies.