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$200b recovery from Swiss banks: Officer stuns Finance Ministry, FBR

$200b recovery from Swiss banks: Officer stuns Finance Ministry, FBR

ISLAMABAD: The Finance Ministry and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) are stunned over the outcome of mission sent to Switzerland to negotiate on the issue of bringing $ 200 billion from Swiss banks.

Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar had announced that talks would be held with Swiss authorities in August to bring back US$200 billion to Pakistan from banks in Switzerland on July 31. He said talks would be held in several phases and it could take three to four years to bring back the said money to the country.

A well placed source at Finance Ministry Wednesday disclosed to this scribe that a two-member delegation comprising Ex-Chief International Taxes Ashfaq Ahmad, grade 20 officer, and Secretary International Taxes Sajida Kausar, grade-18 officer visited Switzerland in August to hold talks with Swiss officials regarding bringing $ 200 billion back to Pakistan from Swiss banks.

“Instead of convincing the Swiss authorities on the issue, a two- member negotiating team of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) transgressed from their authority and approved amendments in the existing dual taxation with Switzerland which had cast damaging impacts on revenue from dual taxation. Pakistan has dual taxation treaties with almost 54 countries,” the source added.  “Such an action has stunned the FBR and Finance Ministry to the extent that not a single word or statement has been issued by both the organizations on the issue of bringing $ 200 billion back to Pakistan since then,” the source said, adding that the Finance Ministry was also contemplating on the possible means to counter damaging impacts of the said amend in dual taxation treaty with Switzerland on revenue from international taxation.

“Both the officials were not authorized to make any commitment on the existing dual taxation treaty with Switzerland and they committed transgression from their authority,” the source added. The source further said that amendment agreed by both the officials related to import and export tariffs and lowered rates would cause loss of billions of dollars to the national exchequer.  On the other side, the source said that both of the officials should have been charged sheet and an inquiry into the said matte should have been carried out, but FBR administration transferred Ashfaq Ahmad immediately whereas Sajida Kausar was given reward by declaring her appointment as Secretary International Taxes on permanent basis.

It is pertinent to mention here that former President Asif Ali Zardari and ex premier Benazir Bhutto had been accused of keeping billions of dollars in Swiss banks and Switzerland enacted a new law in 2011 to make it easier for countries to recover assets stolen by politicians and hidden in its banks.  In early 2012, Switzerland said it had returned $1.83 billion in illicitly-placed assets to countries involved in the Arab Spring regime changes, but Pakistan’s current tax agreement does not allow it to take advantage of the law.