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FBR To Take Action Against Benami Asset Holders

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to tighten the noose around those people who hold Benami properties in Pakistan, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has notified three benches under its Adjudicating Authority formed in June this year.

With this notification, the Adjudicating Authority has now become fully functional within three months of its announcement, while respective benches have been established in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

On June 30, the FBR had issued a notification saying that after the approval of the federal government and in pursuance of Section 6 of Benami Transactions (Prohibitions Act) 2017, an Adjudicating Authority has been established with effect from July 1.

In a notification issued on Friday, the FBR said that following approval of the government, the board has also determined jurisdiction of each of the benches. The bench would hear Benami cases from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and Rawalpindi division.

Meanwhile, the Lahore bench would adjudicate cases in Punjab, with the exception of Rawalpindi division. Similarly, the Karachi bench would hear cases from Sindh and Balochistan.

Ever since the formation of the authority, the delay in deciding seats of the benches and their jurisdictions raised serious concerns about further delay in hearing Benami cases and making recoveries.

To resolve this issue, the Adjudicating Authority Chairperson Jamil Ahmed wrote a letter to the government and requested that a summary for the three benches, dated July 18, should be approved at the earliest.

It read that the officers posted in Benami zones have started working on different cases and would soon start sending those cases to the Adjudicating Authority. It was requested that steps should be taken to avoid further delays in the process.

According to sources, the government issued a notification after receiving the letter. An officer, requesting anonymity, said that the Anti-Benami Initiative director general has started taking steps to eliminate white-collar crimes from the country and to take action against those who hold Benami peoperties.

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The officer further said that notices have already been issued to Benami asset holders while references have also been prepared against them. He said that officers of the directorate and its subordinate bodies would have the power to freeze and seize Benami properties, luxury cars, bank accounts, offshore companies and shares. The framework in this connection has been finalised, he added.

The directorate would report to the national coordinator over implementation of the Benami Transactions Act 2017 and in this connection the FBR has issued an official four page order clarifying that due to lack of rules and laws against the Benami properties, all anti-corruption agencies and bodies have failed to trace the real owners.

It also said that documentation of the real owners was absent which allowed culprits to run away from accountability.

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