Notice issued for attachment of Benami assets

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ISLAMABAD: The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Zone-I, Islamabad, has formally initiated an investigation into a high-profile case involving 125,000 kanals of land and seven bank accounts registered in the name of a company. The Benami assets so far identified, and provisionally attached, have a market value of Rs15-20 billion.

Official documents seen by Dawn reveal that a show-cause notice was issued on Tuesday to the beneficiary owner, which is a renowned Islamabad-based company having international branches, for provisional attachment of its assets. During the attachment, no one can transfer the properties or take any benefit from these assets.

A tax official told Dawn that a high-profile Lahore-based politician is believed to have links with the company. “We don’t want to disclose his name before completion of the investigation,” the official said.

The anti-Benami zone under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2017, will complete the investigation within 90 days after the issuance of show-cause notice for attachment of assets. After the investigation, a reference will be filed before an adjudicating authority under the Benami Act. The proceedings will be completed within one month by the authority.

The properties will be de-attached in case the beneficiary owner provided evidence of the assets to the anti-Benami authorities. The commissioner of Rawalpindi has reported the case of Benami assets to the anti-Benami zone as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative in which he directed all deputy commissioners across the country to report Benami assets in their areas.

The commissioner said large pieces of landholding have been recently registered in the name of M/s S.A.S Pvt Ltd (Benamidar). During the preliminary investigation over the past three months, tax evasion running into millions has been detected.

Further investigation shows that the owners of the Benami assets got the illegal financial benefit of about Rs13bn. Subsequently, a case was registered with the National Accountability Bureau and Rs1.9bn was recovered from them.

Consequently, the beneficiary owners made a plea bargain of Rs771 million and the remaining amount due on them during the same period in which these Benami assets were acquired in the name of Benamidar.

According to the document, the Benamidar company is a shell company holding about 125,000 kanals of land. In violation of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s regulation and Companies Act, 2017, the owner invested and held assets in the name of Benamidar without any shares, loans, and authorized share capital in the Benamidar company.

According to the tax official, the director of Benamidar and the beneficiary company owner did not provide a record of the assets despite the issuance of several summonses.

In case the Benamidar does not provide enough evidence on the Benami property in question, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will confiscate the property and the adjudicating authority can jail for seven years the people in whose names these properties are registered.

The government had established the directorate general of the Anti-Benami Initiative (ABI) on July 1 to deal with Benami assets. The FBR then set up anti-Benami zones under the ABI to file references with the adjudicating authority.

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