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Asset Recovery Unit probing over 10,000 foreign properties owned by Pakistanis

Asset Recovery Unit probing over 10,000 foreign properties owned by Pakistanis

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Friday said that the newly constituted Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) comprising National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials will investigate over 10,000 foreign properties owned by Pakistanis.

He said this while addressing a press conference along with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, “ARU members have been selected and we have received details of those holding foreign assets and 10,000 properties owned by Pakistanis in the United Kingdom (UK) and United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been traced.”

He added that details of “at least half of the 10,000 properties were previously available but no action was taken”.

Moreover, it was said that notices have been issued for 300 properties from the list which had been divided into two parts, one for politically exposed people, and one for other citizens.

“The ARU will submit a fortnightly progress report to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Akbar further said that this is a huge success that a task force has been formed “which will ensure the money sent abroad is brought back”.

“In the first stage, we have initiated an inquiry against 895 foreign properties and officers of the FIA and NAB are part of the investigation,” he added.

Furthermore, Akbar said that former finance minister Ishaq Dar “deliberately stopped an agreement” regarding data-sharing with Switzerland, which was supposed to be completed by 2013-14

“After 2013, no information was sought on bank accounts in Switzerland,” he said, adding that “we have spoken to the Swiss government and will speak to other countries as well regarding hundi hawala”.

Akbar said that the treaty would be ratified and acted upon soon.

Following this, the special assistant said that their department found a solution for this, which was to approach the German government, which in 2013 announced that “it had acquired information on Swiss accounts until then, and would make it publicly available to all governments, particularly those of developing countries”.

Despite this, Akbar said, the government of Pakistan had not asked the German government for this information.

He further said that once the German government was asked to provide information and when it was received, they would be able to “access information for accounts created, both in the past and in the future”.

Akbar further said that they had quoted India’s example in their request when the sought help from the German government to access information on Swiss accounts.

While Islamabad awaits a response from the German government, Akbar hoped that the government’s vision was kept in mind and the information is provided timely in order for them to start proceedings against the information regarding Swiss bank accounts.

The Prime Minister’s special assistant on accountability said that “Pakistan had also invited other countries such as the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, China and the United States with whom it has existing bilateral treaties to revisit these treaties and add similar clauses for the exchange of information”.

He said that the previous government’s shortcomings were evident in the arrangement with the US, which allows Washington to access Pakistanis’ details but does not grant similar access to Islamabad as there is no such clause in the agreement.

Furthermore, stating that cases regarding properties owned abroad by Pakistanis are also being heard in the Supreme Court, Akbar said, “First, the top court was alone in its fight against the corrupt but now it has the government’s support.”

The premier’s special assistant also spoke about notices sent to 300 Pakistani nationals who own properties in the United Arab Emirates and stated that the list of the people will be sent to the SC soon.

Akbar further said, “We have details of three housing societies in Dubai.”

“Money is sent abroad through launches,” Akbar regretted and added that PM Imran has formed a task force to draft laws against money laundering and hundi hawala.

Furthermore, he said that “millions are being recovered from the accounts of ice-cream vendors and stall owners.”

“Fake accounts were created for the purpose of money laundering,” he said, adding that “bank accounts were created in the names of drivers and domestic staff”.

“When leaders are corrupt they draft laws which make it easy for money to be taken abroad. Money can be brought back and its ownership can be proven,” Akbar said.

Moreover, he mentioned that the proceedings have been initiated against those who were named in the Panama leaks.

“If your name was on the Panama Papers list it does not mean that you were involved in corruption, however, if the name appears of someone who held a public office then an inquiry will be conducted against them,” he said.

The premier’s special assistant also alleged that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mushahidullah Khan “appointed his whole family in Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and also got his treatment done on PIA’s expense and this matter is being forwarded to NAB”.