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ISLAMABAD: The Finance Ministry said it is ready to brief the Finance Standing Committee of National Assembly about the terms and conditions of US$ 3 billion Saudi safe deposit in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP),if the meeting takes place in camera.

During the meeting of the Finance Committee of the National Assembly held under the chairmanship of Faiz Ullah Kamoka, committee member Dr Nafisa Shah said that a lot was being reported about terms and conditions of US$3 billion loan provided by Saudi Arabia and the Finance Ministry should update the committee. DG debt Finance Ministry said that we can give briefing to the committee but the meeting should be in-camera.

On agenda item with regard to problems being faced by business community due to anti-money laundering law and enforcement agencies, the DG Investigation Custom Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Abdul Rashid Shaikh informed the meeting that investigation and prosecution was undertaken for tax crimes based on preliminary data of suspicious transactions of fiscal fraud, and smuggling.

He revealed to the committee that so far from 2018-2021, 170 investigations and 44 prosecutions have been undertaken.

However, there was no conviction yet but was confident that solid evidence available in some cases would lead to convictions in the courts.

The chairman FBR said that the law and subsequent investigation and prosecution has created a deterrence.

The chairman of the committee pointed out that the business community concern was that before any assessment FIRs are being lodged and tax evasion was brought into money laundering.

He said that bringing tax evasion into money laundering is very dangerous because size of the undocumented economy is larger as opposed to documented one.

He urged the tax authorities to treat tax evasion as tax evasion.

The chairman FBR said that tax authorities’ major focus was on revenue collection and AML law was made by the parliamentarians and powers were given to the FBR due to the FATF.

We have deputed people for this assignment despite, the fact that there was shortage of manpower.

Member Inland Revenue (IR) informed that the committee about the first conviction in tax crime in Peshawar, and stated that more than 100 petitions are still pending.

He further stated that under his supervision, so far IR registered 215 FIRs against 267 persons andRs235 billion assets have been attached with the permission of court.

He said all this involves Rs76 billion in tax impact.

He said that 95 investigations and 51 prosecutions have been done.

The committee also discussed in detail, the Federal Government Properties Management Authority (FGPMA) Bill, 2021, but deferred it for the next meeting consequent to members’ reservations whether all stakeholders were taken on board before its approval from the cabinet.

Nafisa Shah said that this law is being brought to control the properties various department ministries, while Ahsan Iqbal wanted to know as to what would be the procedure for acquiring properties.

Iqbal said that some departments may have secured loans or financing on the basis of properties for instance, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Ruling Party member Ramesh Kumar was of the view that this law would open a new Pandora’s box because there is litigation on some properties, while some have been illegally occupied.

After discussion on the proposed FGPMA Bill, the committee decided to defer it for the next meeting and recommended the Ministry of Finance and Revenue to get the views/comments of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives as well as other stakeholders.

The committee members wanted to know whether the Finance Ministry has circulated the summary to the concerned stakeholders – the Ministry of Housing and Works, the Ministry of Privatization, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and taken their input before soliciting approval of the federal cabinet.

The committee decided that the said bill will be discussed in the next meeting of the committee.

The committee expressed displeasure on the absence of senior members of Board of Revenue of Government of Punjab and Sindh, and directed that displeasure notices should be issued to them by the secretary committee.

The committee deferred the agenda till its next meeting.

The committee discussed the agenda regarding issues being faced by the construction sector due to higher value of taxation on raw materials. The committee directed the chairman FBR to resolve the issue of steel industries.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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