National Accountability Bureau Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has ordered an immediate inquiry into the offshore firms held by 435 Pakistanis in tax havens abroad. While taking notice of 435 Pakistani registered offshore companies in Panama and British Virgin Islands, the anti-graft body chief also ordered to get details of these offshore firms from the Federal Bureau of Revenue, the State Bank of Pakistan, the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the Federal Investigation Agency.
According to report, the NAB chief directed all bureaus to investigate the offshore companies on merit without taking any pressure. According to the NAB, among other Pakistanis, Pakistan Tehreek –e-Insaf Punjab President Aleem Khan had registered his company HEXMA in the British Virgin Islands in 2004, FBR former chairman Abdullah Yousuf has registered his companies, Green Deal Management, Green-Wood Investment, Shahid Abdullah and Shahyan Abdullah have registered Green Wood Investor, Sheeran Investment, Green Deal Management, Usman Yousuf owns Marlborough and Ameer Abdullah owns six companies. According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism website, a majority of Pakistanis figuring in Panama Leaks were businessmen. The politico-business Saifullah family of Lakki Marwat stays on the top of the list with a record number of 34 offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles owned by Senator Osman Saifullah, Anwar Saifullah, Salim Saifullah, Humayun Saifullah, Dr Iqbal Saifullah, Javed Saifullah and Jehangir Saifullah. Bank accounts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland and property in the UK are owned by these companies, it was further revealed in the leaks. The NAB chairman has also directed all regional bureaus to file applications in respective accountability courts for early hearing of references to recover Rs900 billion from the corrupt and bring them to justice as per the law. The anti-graft body chief said that 499 inquiries and 287 investigations are underway in regional bureaus and have not completed in the prescribed timeframe of 10 months as per the law.
The NAB chairman directed the regional bureaus to let him know about the delay regarding the inquiries and investigation. The meeting was convened to review the performance of all regional bureaus of the NAB. Justice (retd) Iqbal asked the officials why the references had not been filed in respective accountability court after completion of investigations.
Across the board accountability in Pakistan is need of the hour and NAB chief’s directions to initiate immediate inquiry into the offshore firms held by 435 Pakistanis in tax havens abroad is a step in a right direction. We hope NAB will take steps for fair and transparent inquiry into this matter. If NAB succeeded to conduct fair inquiry and produced tangible results then it will improve image of NAB and increase the confidence of people on it.