ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has informed the Senate Standing Committee on Finance that over Rs37 billion over-invoicing scam on import of solar panels would be dealt with under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AML).
The meeting featured a briefing by the FBR chairman and his team, shedding light on reports of massive money laundering by solar panel importers.
The FBR chairman informed that as a result of the audit, two FIRs have recently been lodged against M/s Bright Star Business Solution (Pvt) Ltd and M/s Moonlight Trader (SMC) Pvt Ltd as these two importers were involved in over-invoicing, obstruction of audit, and using illicit funds for imports in violation of Customs Act, 1969.
The committee sought details of all the banks involved and vowed to pursue the matter with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and all relevant authorities for swift resolution.
The FBR chairman told the Senate Standing Committee on Finance meeting presided over by Saleem Mandviwala on Wednesday that in Rs69 billion solar panel imports, over-invoicing scam of Rs37 billion by two companies was detected.
He added that the FBR has registered the FIR against the involved persons, who are absconders at this point in time. He said that of the total solar panel imports of Rs69 billion, Rs45 billion were sold in the market. As the solar panel are not made in the country; therefore, these are imported.
The committee was informed that solar panels were imported from one country and payment was made in another country.
Another official of the FBR told the committee that it is necessary to get NOC from the SBP for such payments.
The committee was told that action would be taken against the elements involved in the scam under the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
Senator Mohsin Aziz said that solar panels were imported at a time when the country had imposed restrictions even on essential commodities like palm oil, medicine, etc., which is an indication that some influential people have been involved in it.
Senator Aziz and other senators said that the role of banks is also important in this scandal.
Earlier, the committee formed a subcommittee to be headed by Senator Sadia Abbasi on the issue pertaining to hydel, budgetary, and other financial issues as well as non-payment of AJK’s share from the divisible pool. All concerned ministries will give a briefing in the sub-committee on the issues of Kashmir.
The senator expressed solidarity with the people of Kashmir and remarked that the committee would go to any extent to get their issues resolved. The committee expressed displeasure that despite its instruction in the previous committee, the Finance Ministry did not hold a meeting with the Azad Kashmir government.
The finance secretary stated that a meeting has not yet been held on Kashmir issues due to other important meetings in the ministry. He added that he had a discussion with the chief secretary today (Wednesday) and the next meeting would be held on Monday or Tuesday.
Senator Sadia Abbasi was visibly perturbed over the finance secretary’s response and stated that Kashmir’s issues are important for Pakistan at home and abroad as politics on Kashmir has been going on since the creation of Pakistan.
She suggested that the federal government needed to reduce the expenditure and resolve the problems of Kashmir on a priority basis. She further suggested that all other projects should be stopped if required in this regard. She said that the committee was supposed to provide an answer but the finance secretary is talking about fiscal constraints.
Senator Sherry Rehman said that naturally, the committee was disappointed over the absence of the caretaker finance minister when there are reports of shortfall on the external account and international donors had a trust deficit on the caretaker government and therefore, external inflows have slowed down.
Senator Dilawar regretted that it was unfortunate the meeting has not been held yet, whereas, Senator Mohsin Aziz stated that the issue was brought by the AJK prime minister in the last meeting of the committee and the committee directed the Finance Ministry to look into the matter in consultation with other ministries and Division, especially the Ministry of Power.
If there is no meeting on the issue in 25 days, it is a matter of disappointment, Aziz added. If there is no prosperity in Azad Kashmir, how the people of Indian-held Occupied Kashmir would look up to the Kashmiris of this side and Pakistan, Senator Farooq H Naek stated.
AJK Prime Minister Chaudhary Anwarul Haq said that he was grateful his concerns have been expressed by the committee members. He said that if there is a decrease in federal revenue, then Kashmir’s share should also be reduced proportionately but the federal government should not put the burden of flawed decisions and policies on the people of Kashmir.
The committee expressed its displeasure over the absence of caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar for not turning up in the meeting.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023