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ISLAMABAD: The Income Tax Ordinance 2001 guarantees confidentiality of tax record of any individual and Section 216 of the said ordinance strictly bars the disclosure of information declared in the income tax returns and wealth statement of any person.

Arshad Tabrez, counsel of Abdul Ghani Majid, said this, during the cross-examination of prosecution, Imran Farooq, deputy commissioner Enforcement and Collection in Thatta water supply reference. The Accountability Court-II judge, Muahmmad Azam Khan, conducted hearing of Thatta water supply reference case, a case pertaining to fake bank accounts case involving former president Asif Ali Zardari and others.

The witness during the hearing said that Commissioner Inland Revenue (IR) Shakeel Kasana had authorised him on March 20, 2019, through letter to provide income returns and wealth statements of accused, Abdul Ghani Majid, Menahel Majid, Khawaja Nimar Majid, and Noor Nimar, to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Investigation Officer (IO) Furqan Nadeem.

The defence counsel asked the witness that under Section 216 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 you could not provide income tax return and wealth statement of any person to the NAB. The witness replied that it was a question of law as he was directed by the Commissioner IR. The judge read out Section 216 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001.

The judge said according to Section 216(3)(p) provides that "nothing in Section 216(1) shall preclude the disclosure of any particulars which may be required by any officer or department of the federal government or of a provincial government for the purposes of investigation into the conduct and affairs of any public servant." The judge asked the defence counsel that was the NAB not an institution of the federal government? At this, the defence counsel said that the NAB was an independent institution.

He also said that the Supreme Court judgement was also available in that regard. The witness said that the commissioner IR letter contained that provision of information related to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 of the NAO of public office holder and legal and other others regarding illegal award of contract by the Sindh government special initiatives department to M/s Harish and Company and others.

To another question, he said that he did not provide any income tax return and wealth statement of Harish and Company. I have provided income tax returns and wealth statement regarding Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majid, Minahel Majid, Khawaja Nimr Majid, and Noor Nimr, he said. When the witnessed was asked that did you have any verbal communication with the Commissioner IR with the respect to the provision of these documents?

The witness replied that he did not have any verbal conversation other than this letter. The NAB prosecutor objected to the defence counsel's question, and said that the defence counsel was asking question from the witness about his privilege communication with his immediate boss.

To another question, the letter of Commissioner IR did not contain the name of individuals of whose tax returns and wealth statements had been provided to the NAB. He said that he did not inform the Commissioner IR that that information which was required was a privilege under income tax return 2001.

The witness said that income tax returns and wealth statements exhibited by him contain his initial but no date and official seal was affixed on it. The initial on these documents affixed by him at the time he produced these documents before the NAB investigation officer.

The defence counsel again asked the witness that if the letter of the Commissioner IR did not mention the name of the accused, Abdul Ghani Majid and others, then on whose directives you had provided their income tax returns and wealth statement to the NAB.

The witness replied that he had provided the aforesaid documents after receiving a separate letter from the NAB IO, Furqan Nadeem, and he received this letter prior of commissioner inland revenue letter. This letter was not addressed to him, he said. He said that he had appeared once before the NAB IO.

He had brought the record with respect to income tax return and wealth statement from Karachi. The witness said that he was serving in the Income Tax Department since 2011. To a question, he said that the income tax returns and wealth statements were filed under Income Tax Ordinance 2001.

All returns and wealth statements were filed in the Large Taxpayer Unit, he said. The court adjourned hearing of the case. The defence counsel will continue cross examination of the witness on the next hearing to be held on November 13th.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020