Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pakistan - Sharif`s finances in foreign tax havens not accessible to JIT

Even before the formation of a seven-member joint investigation team (JIT) on the money trail of assets owned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court, new questions have arisen over its supposed modus operandi.
The JIT team will not be able to obtain information from other countries over tax details of the Sharifs through the multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters until September 2018.
Pakistan formally became a part of the 109-member Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in April 2017; according to its laws, member States will begin to exchange and receive records of assets from next year.
Under the convention, Pakistan will receive details of its citizens holding funds abroad and will exchange similar information with other countries whose citizens hold bank accounts in Pakistan from July 2018.
Interestingly, Pakistan is not a member of any bilateral treaty with nine other tax havens, identified in the leaks.
Reports suggest, most individuals named in the leaks are said to have accounts in the British Virgin Islands, followed by Bahamas, Panama, Seychelles, Niue, Samoa, Mauritius, Anguilla and Jersey.
Pakistan reached out to the nine tax havens seeking access to details regarding offshore companies. Only Samoa replied; in the negative.
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered further investigations into corruption allegations levelled by the opposition against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying there was insufficient evidence to order his removal from office.
"A thorough investigation is required," Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said, announcing the highly anticipated decision following a months-long hearing stemming from the Panama Papers leak last year that linked PM Sharif´s children to offshore businesses.
The verdict ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation team (JIT) to carry out an investigation into how Gulf Steel Mill came into being, its sale and liabilities, how the sale proceeds ended up in Jeddah, Qatar and the UK. How the prime minister's children at their tender age had the means to purchase the flats in the early nineties.
It further raised questions regarding the letters written by Qatari Prince Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani, how the bearer shares crystilised into the flats, who the real owner and beneficiary of the offshore company Neilsen Enterprises and Nescol Limited was, how Hill Metal Establishment came into existence; where the funds for Flagship Investment Limited and other companies set up by Hasan Nawaz Sharif came from and where working capital came from and the source of millions gifted by Hussein Nawaz Sharif to his father originated from.
To seek answers to the questions raised, the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a JIT to investigate and present its report every two weeks before a Supreme Court bench. The court also ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and his sons Hasan and Hussein to appear before the JIT as and when required, which will complete its investigation within 60 days of its formation.
The order further added, that after receiving the JIT reports, periodic or final, the matter of disqualification of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif shall be considered.
Observing that the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had failed to carry out his duties, the apex court ordered the JIT to comprise one senior official each from NAB, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the Military Intelligence (MI) will be tasked to carry out the probe.
The detailed decision by the apex court comprised 549 pages, with the verdict split 3-2 between the five-member apex court bench.

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