ISLAMABAD: Former chairman FBR Shabbar Zaidi has made a startling disclosure that $150 billion owned by Pakistani businessmen are stashed in foreign bank accounts, earning meagre profits because of lower interest rates. “Pakistanis own $150 billion lying in foreign bank accounts and are earning peanuts in the wake of lower interest rates. Now the time has come in the wake of a changed scenario worldwide when these businessmen will have to think to bring back this huge money,” Zaidi said in a webinar organized by the Positive Media Communication on Tuesday.

Recalling his meeting with one of renowned businessmen where he mentioned those Pakistanis who had stashed massive money in dollars abroad in countries like Malta and others, he said now he could foresee that the time has come when they would be invited to these countries to inform them that their money was seized by the respective governments. He said he knew individuals with addresses, who owned the $150 billion.

After the webinar, Zaidi told this scribe that he had written in his book that Pakistanis owned $120 to $150 billion which were lying abroad. He said they were earning 1 or 2 per cent profit because of lower interest rates and are deprived of huge profit earning opportunities in Pakistan.

It is relevant to mention here that in a summary during the PML-N government, a reference was made to the stashed $200 billion, but later former Finance minister Ishaq Dar distanced himself from this claim.

The former FBR chairman disclosed during the webinar that he had assigned the country’s premier intelligence agency to ensure foolproof security of IT-based data because there were incidents of eruption of fire where the IT data was kept for Inland Revenues and Customs. The documentation of the economy, he said, was hard to crack and all those opposed to this move benefited from lack of documentation.

When asked about those sectors where the illegal trade possessed a major share, Zaidi replied that there was a 30 per cent share of illegal cigarettes in the tobacco sector. There is taxation of 74 per cent in the tobacco sector and where there is higher incidence, there will be a huge evasion. He said the major tax-evaded sectors include sugar, cement and others. He said he made efforts to place a track and trace system but his efforts were struck down by the high court. He criticized the role of the media and argued that it created blocks in the way of introducing reforms and documentation of the economy. He said 90 per cent officers belonging to the IRS and the Customs Group belonged to those families where their relatives are involved in illegal businesses so it was also in their vested interest to continue the practice of undocumented economy for longer period.

Published by The News, December 30, 2020