Panama Leaks: FBR sends 303 notices, receives 94 replies

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Securities and Exchange Commission and the State Bank on Wednesday declared that they had nothing to do with the investigation of Panama Leaks concerning Pakistanis holding offshore companies. However, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was after the issue and had sent notices to 303 individuals and companies while others were under scrutiny and had received 94 replies.

FBR Chairman Nisar Muhammad Khan said this while briefing the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs here on Wednesday about the Panama Papers issue and actions taken in this regard. He clearly stated that the main role of the FBR was to monitor the matter and find out if taxes had been paid on income and transactions of funds by Pakistani residents for forming companies abroad. He told the committee that the FBR had taken some important measures with regard to the investigation into the Panama issue. He said that Director General of FBR’s Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation was given the task to investigate the matter.

Interestingly, opposition party Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which had been agitating against the government over the PanamaLeaks for months, did not attend the meeting. There was also no member of the Pakistan People’s Party in the meeting. Although, MNA Nafeesa Shah of the PPP came to the meeting for 10 minutes but left the meeting saying that their parliamentary party meeting was underway and she had to attend it.

Khwaja Tanveer, DG of the FBR Directorate, informed the committee that certain constraints were there before starting the subject assignment, because incomplete information was published by the media. However, 444 cases were found by the Customs Intelligence and, accordingly, the FBR had investigated and traced 303 addresses. Later, notices were issued under the Income Tax Section 176, Ordinance, 2001, to these 303 individuals asking about different information.

The federal revenue body told the standing committee that out of 303 notices sent, only 94 had been responded to. Of these, 33 had been sent with adjournment request saying their company was dormant, shares were sold or the owners only 14 people admitted having their companies abroad while 17 outrightly denied. FBR chairman assured the Committee that FBR would do its job with devotion and honesty without any discrimination.

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee met here with MNA Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh in the chair to take briefing from the State Bank, SECP and the FBR on Panama papers issue and action taken in this regard.

Regarding further investigation into the matter, Tanveer said where replies were not received to notices, reminders had been issued. If response was still not received till compliance date, penalty notices would be issued to them. The penalty would be imposed on (resident) non-compliant cases.

Explaining the penalty amount, he said that Rs25,000 would be imposed on first default and Rs50,000 for each subsequent default. He further said that in persistent non-compliant cases, option of initiating proceedings in trial court was available with the government.

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