Offshore companies: FBR refuses to share tax details
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Wednesday refused to share tax details of offshore companies owned by Mariam Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz, Imran Khan and Jehangir Khan Tarin with National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance. The National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, which met under the chairmanship of Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh here, decided to summon Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for briefing them on the Panama and Bahamas Leaks in next meeting.
During the committee proceedings, PPP MNA Dr Nafisa Shah inquired from Chairman FBR that whether PM’s sons and daughter were served tax notices and what were their replies. Furthermore, she asked whether the FBR gathered information about offshore companies owned by Mariam Nawaz, Hasan Nawaz, Imran Khan and Jehangir Khan Tarin.
Chairman FBR Nisar Mohammad Khan responded that FBR sent out tax notices to all those whose names had appeared in the Panama or Bahamas Leaks but he could not reply this question instantly because a probe was under way in this regard. The FBR, through the Foreign Office, sent letters to nine known tax havens around the globe in order to seek desired information from their respective tax authorities.
Dr Nafisa Shah further inquired whether Mariam Nawaz was a return filer or not. Responding to this, chairman FBR replied that he could inform the committee after examining the record. Tax authorities further said that the information could not be revealed as the matter was subjudice in the apex court. Nisar Muhammad Khan said this information could not be disclosed as the matter was in the Supreme Court.
Director General, Intelligence & Investigation Inland Revenue Khawaja Tanveer Ahmed informed the committee that they sent out tax notices to 336 individuals out of total 444 while 133 had responded to these notices. He said that the FBR would take action against those who had failed to respond to these notices.
Director General, Intelligence & Investigation informed the Committee that certain constraints were there before starting the assignment on the Panama Leaks, because incomplete information was published by media. However, 444 cases were found by Intelligence & Investigation, accordingly FBR investigated and traced down 303 addresses. He further said that notices were issued under section 176 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, to these individuals.
Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Ashraf Mahmood Wathra said that the central bank was a regulator and it did not work as an investigation agency. However, SBP will provide required information to the FBR in this regard. With permission of the SBP, he said that anyone could invest up to $5 million while for any above amount the ECC was the competent forum to grant permission. Such companies, he said, had also invested into offshore companies and these were listed companies. There was none of such company which had invested into Panama. He said that the anti money laundering law existed in the country since 2007 and Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) was operating as independent body working under supervision of Finance Ministry in order to work against suspicious transactions in close co-ordination with commercial banks.
The anti-money laundering (AML) was further strengthened by incorporating tax evasion through amendments, he added. Chairman SECP Zafar Hijazi said it was not a crime to invest outside Pakistan. Without naming anyone, he said the SECP was criticised publicly that they were not doing its work but he just wanted to ask them under which law the SECP was not working.
Parliamentary secretary Rana Mohammad Afzal argued before the committee that the Panama case was before the Supreme Court of Pakistan so under the rules the committee could not bring it under discussion because it was sub judice. Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) briefed the Committee about the Panama Papers issue and actions taken in this regard. He clearly stated that the main role of FBR was to monitor the tax related matters on income and transaction of funds by the citizens of Pakistan. He told the Committee that FBR has taken some important measures with regard to investigations into the Panama issue. He said that Directorate General of Intelligence & Investigation was given a special task to investigate the said issue.